It was a number of months ago that astronauts aboard the International Space Station were forced to deal with a rather unusual problem. The space station’s sensors alerted them to the presence of an air leak in the Soyuz ship that brought crew to the station and remained attached. A leak is obviously a very serious thing when we’re talking about a spacecraft, and the hole that was found has led to a months-long investigation into who created it, when, and why.
News about the leak had died down a bit until just recently, but the big question at the back of everyone’s mind was whether the leak would pose any kind of threat during the return trip. NASA and Russisa’s space group Roscosmos believed there was no risk, and today the ship finally made its way back to Earth with three crew members on board.
The reason the hole was of little concern to the crew or their team on the ground is that the part of the Soyuz where the hole was located doesn’t play any role in the return of the ship. The module where the hole was found actually gets discarded before the ship hits the atmosphere, meaning that the integrity of the crew’s vehicle was not affected in any way.
Russia has given some mixed signals regarding its investigation into how the hole came to be. Sources within Roscosmos were quoted as saying the incident was being investigated as intention sabotage, and shortly after the investigation began it sounded like they might have already nabbed the person responsible.
However, the weeks and months that followed brought little news, and Russia now says that it’s in the final stages of determining the origins of the damage. It’s been assumed that the hole was created at some point during the manufacturing process, but we know very little beyond that.