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Here's a story of a space mystery. How did a tiny hole end up in the hull of a Russian module that's attached to the International Space Station? NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Leroy Chiao is a former NASA astronaut who was once commander of the station. He says, living up there in an outpost that's bigger than a house, one of the things you worry about is your precious air leaking out into space.
LEROY CHIAO: The structure will creak a little bit. So as soon as we hear a noise, you know, we would rush over to the very sensitive pressure gauge to make sure that the pressure was holding.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: The pressure gauge registered a minute drop in pressure last week, not serious enough for NASA to wake up the sleeping crew. But still, once the crew got up, they went on a hunt.
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UNIDENTIFIED ASTRONAUT #1: Two to the station on one, how copy?
UNIDENTIFIED ASTRONAUT #2: Loud and clear on one.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Alexander Gerst, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, told mission control that they found a 2 millimeter-wide hole in the hull of a Russian spacecraft that's attached to the station. They could hear air being sucked out. He first stuck his finger over it to plug it up, then slapped heavy-duty tape on the hole.
ALEXANDER GERST: So my finger's released here (laughter).
GREENFIELDBOYCE: What he saw did not look like a tiny meteorite impact.
GERST: It looks more like a drill hole. There's actually some tool tapping from maybe a drill head around that.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: The crew later fixed it with epoxy. But how did this hole get there? Was it a blunder that a worker who built the capsule tried to patch up, or some kind of sabotage on the ground or in space? Leroy Chiao says it's a real head-scratcher.
CHIAO: I'm going to be interested to see what finally comes out of this. It's a little mysterious that this would be a hand-drilled hole.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Speculation is so rampant that the Russian space agency has just asked the press to stop running what it called unverified information from anonymous sources. It's investigating and will issue a report later this month. A NASA spokesperson said the agency is confident that their Russian partners will identify the cause. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.
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