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Russia says it won’t tell NASA why a hole appeared in the International Space Station

Published Sep 23rd, 2019 6:04PM EDT
iss hole russia
Image: NASA

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The mystery of why a small hole appeared in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the International Space Station last year is now somehow even more bizarre than it already was. The hole, which was detected by the crew and patched in space, sparked investigations by Russia’s Roscosmos and NASA, with both agencies vowing to get to the bottom of how such a thing could have happened.

Now, after months of silence, Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin says he knows how it happened, but that NASA will never find out. It’s a bizarre state of affairs that highlights the odd tension that has been building between NASA and the Russian space agency for some time.

Initially thought to be the result of a tiny space rock or other debris slamming into the space station at high speeds, it later became clear that the hole had been drilled into the side of the spacecraft. Russia set out to determine when the hole was created, and since it was clear that it wasn’t drilled in space, figuring out who drilled the hole back on Earth was a top priority.

Early reports out of Russia claimed that a culprit had been determined, but nothing really came of those reports and we never learned of anyone being charged with sabotaging the mission. Had it been merely an accident, it could have been easily explained, but Russia refuses to reveal what actually happened.

This is sadly not surprising. Roscosmos has been increasingly moody as of late, and with NASA no longer wanting to pay for seats aboard the Soyuz crew launches to the ISS, and planning on using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner in the near future, the Russian space program appears to be taking it personally.

“What happened is clear to us, but we won’t tell you anything,” Rogozin said in an interview with the state-run news outlet RIA Novosti.

This sounds pretty sketchy, but it fits perfectly with Russia’s well-documented inferiority complex. The country has long demonstrated a complete inability to admit when something doesn’t go according to plan. The decades-old disaster at Chernobyl is obviously the most glaring example, but it’s clearly still happening today.

Earlier this summer, Russia refused to provide information about a missile explosion that killed at least five scientists, instead choosing to downplay the severity of the incident. With that in mind, holding on to secrets about a hole that mysteriously appeared on the side of a space station used by scientists from Russia, the United States, and several other countries seems perfectly mundane by comparison.

In all likelihood, Roscosmos discovered the cause of the damage and, because the truth will make the agency look foolish and incompetent, Rogozin would rather just pretend that it never happened.

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