Houston, we have a problem.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were awakened in the middle of the night after an air leak alarm went off, forcing them to hurriedly seal the hatches between compartments and search for the damage.
NASA said it was the third time in just over a month that the crew — two Russians and one American — had to isolate themselves on the Russian side, in an attempt to find the leak, which appeared to be getting worse, The Indian Express reported.
However, officials stressed that the leak remains small and poses no danger, and the astronauts will now use ultrasonic leak detectors to try to pinpoint the leak in Russia’s main living and working compartment, called Zvezda, Russian for Star.
Space station deputy program manager Kenny Todd said the good news is that “instead of a bunch of haystacks, we’re down to maybe one haystack.” But he added: “It’s still a needle we’re looking for.”
NASA is sending up extra air supply tanks on its next space station delivery, scheduled for a Thursday departure from Virginia. As long as the leak does not worsen, Todd said, the space station should be fine through next spring, the report said.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscomos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner carried out the onboard tests.
In two weeks, two Russians and an American are scheduled to arrive at the space station, followed by crew of three Americans and a Japanese (NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese space agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi) on SpaceX’s second launch of astronauts, now targeted for October 31.
During a news conference from Houston, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, the commander, announced that the SpaceX capsule would be called Resilience — to reflect how the world is coping with this year’s challenges, the report said.
“We hope that it brings a smile to your face and we hope that it provides something positive in your lives. Quite frankly, we hope that it’s an inspiration,” Hopkins said.
The search was stepped up a notch when the size of the leak appeared to grow; this erroneous reading turned out to have been caused by a temperature change onboard the ISS, Hopkins added.
It’s not the first time ISS crew members have found themselves hunting a leak, BBC News reported.
In August 2018, astronauts discovered a 2mm drill hole in part of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked to the space station at the time.
The hole, along with drill marks nearby, appeared to have been a manufacturing defect.
Crew members patched it up with epoxy resin for the remainder of the time the Soyuz was docked to the space station.