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Astronauts work to seal the air leak on the space station. Here is how.



  Astronauts work to seal air leak on the space station.

On August 30, 2018, Space Station astronauts repaired a small leak in the spacecraft Soyuz MS-09 (left). A 2-millimeter hole in the orbital module shown here caused a slight pressure drop in the orbital laboratory

Photo credit: NASA / Space.com

International Space Station astronauts worked hard on it today (August 30), a low Air leak in the Russian segment of the orbiting laboratory repair. Although they were able to stabilize the slowly decreasing air pressure in the station, the repair job was still ongoing.

Astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station learned of the leak this morning, which is not life-threatening. Ground control noticed a slow decline in cabin pressure on Wednesday evening (29th August) around 7pm. EDT (2300 GMT) and decided it was not significant enough to disturb the crew's sleep plan, NASA officials said in a statement. After getting up at their usual hour, the crew began to investigate the Russian side of the space station to find the cause of the leak.

They then discovered a tiny hole in one of the Soyuz crew vehicles that docked on Russia's Rasswet module known as the Mini Research Module or MRM-1

. The 0.08-inch wide hole (2 millimeters) is located in the orbital module, the top of the spacecraft where the crew sits during flights to and from the space station. The Soyuz MS-09 arrived at the space station in June with six crew members from Expedition 56/57, scheduled to depart the same spaceship in December. [Russia’s Manned Soyuz Space Capsule Explained (Infographic)]

While air traffic controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Russian Mission Control Center near Moscow were working on a plan, they instructed crew members to vent some air from the pressurized oxygen tank of the Progress 70 Cargo spacecraft the space station back to its normal pressure.

For now, they are not worried that they will run out of steam in the foreseeable future. "The crew is healthy and safe with weeks of air in the reserves of the International Space Station," said a statement by the European Space Agency.

  This NASA chart shows where the Soyuz MS-09 is docked on the Russian Russet segment of the International Space Station.

This NASA chart shows where the spacecraft Soyuz MS-09 is docked on Russia's International Space Station's Russian Russet segment.

Credit: NASA

To clog the leak at first, the Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev used a small piece of medical gauze soaked in epoxy, a kind of resin that was used as a sealant. As pressure in the space station normalized, the crew expressed concern over "something that looks like a problem," Prokopjew told the ground controllers. He reported that a small bubble had appeared in the seal and said, "I'm not sure how it should be removed."

After several ultrasounds, the astronauts discovered that there was no air in the hole. Ground controllers, however, asked the crew to finish the repair work until tomorrow and keep an eye on it until then. "We have a recommendation to rest and today no more activities to do more," said Russian air traffic controllers of the crew. "You have a very long day tomorrow and we need to make sure you are well rested." In the meantime, ground controllers will be examining photos of the patch and trying to figure out what needs to be done if anything needs to be done about the suspicious bubble.

"All day long the crew was never in danger and they were told there was no action planned for the rest of the day," NASA officials wrote on the International Space Station's blog. "Houston air traffic controllers continue to oversee the station's cabin pressure after repairs, and the Russian space agency Roskosmos has now called a commission to conduct further analysis of the possible cause of the leak."

  Air Traffic Controllers at the Russian Mission The Moscow Control Center is discussing plans to repair a small leak in a Soyuz crew ship docked on the International Space Station on August 30, 2018.

Air traffic controllers at the Russian Mission Control Center in Moscow discuss plans to repair a small leak in a Soyuz crew ship docking with the International Space Station on August 30, 2018.

Credit: Roscosmos

Earlier today, Roskosmos general director Dmitri Rogosin told Sputnik News that the hole was "probably a micrometeoroid," or a tiny speck of space rock. However, the exact cause still needs to be determined.

Another possibility is that a small piece of orbital debris could have punctured the spacecraft. The space station must occasionally adjust its orbit to avoid "space junk". In 2012, only a few splinters from the Chinese spacecraft Fengyun 1C were avoided, which was intentionally destroyed during a test against satellites in 2007.

Although the space station has debris shields against micrometeorite impacts, the Soyuz spacecraft is not equipped with the same type of protection.

The station's current Expedition 56 crew includes NASA astronauts Drew Feustel, Serena Auñón Chancellor and Ricky Arnold; Russian cosmonauts Prokopyev and Oleg Artemyev; and the German astronaut Alexander Gerst from the European Space Agency. Feustel commands the crew

Email Hanneke Weiterering to [email protected] or follow her @hannekescience . Follow us @SpaceTotcom Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .


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