MOSCOW – A Russian astronaut who discovered a mysterious hole in a capsule hidden in the International Space Station said on Monday that the hole was drilled from inside the spacecraft, and the Russian law enforcement agencies are investigating what caused it.
Sergei Prokopyev said that the investigators were watching the samples he had collected, which he and Oleg Kononenko had collected during space walks on December 12. Prokopyev and two other astronauts returned to Earth last week from the 197-day mission of the space station.
A hole in the Russian spacecraft Soyuz connected to the station was noticed on August 30. The crew detected a leak that caused a slight loss of pressure and plugged the hole with epoxy resin and gauze.
Prokopyev said at a press conference that the niche began with the inside of the capsule and "it depends on the investigating authorities to assess when this hole was made."
The quick identification and repair of the hole by astronauts showed that "the crew was ready for any changes" – he said.
The hole did not threaten Prokopyev and Serena Aunon-Chancellor crew members from NASA and Alexandra Gerst from the European Space Agency during their return, because the section of the capsule on which he appeared was ejected before the fiery re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said in September that the hole could be drilled during the production of the capsule or in orbit. Rogozin ceased to blame the crew members, but the statement caused some friction between Roscosmos and NASA.
Rogozin has since retracted from the statement, blaming the media for distorting his words.
Prokopyev mocked the idea that the hole could be drilled by the astronaut, saying, "You should not think so badly about our crew."