Who Caused The Mysterious Leak At The International Space Station? "We don't reject any theories," said Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency. That includes sabotage, though he suspects it was more likely a "technological error."

Who Caused The Mysterious Leak At The International Space Station?

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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.


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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