The crew of the International Space Station tries to repair a small hole through which air slowly penetrates into space, NASA said on Thursday.
Air traffic controllers at the station saw signs of a pressure leak on Wednesday evening. They allowed the crew of the ISS, Expedition 56, to sleep because, according to NASA, they were not in immediate danger. After the crew woke up, the air traffic controllers began searching for the location of the leak.
The station is regularly hit by micrometeorite debris; Spacewalk astronauts report that after almost 20 years in the air, the outer hull looks like it has been hit by a bird strike.
The danger is greater in the region where the station orbits ̵
1; about 250 miles above the earth. This area is located in the depths of the Erdtrabantengürtels, where most spaceships fly and thus most space debris is routinely lost. A direct hit by a large pile of rubble is not common, but could be catastrophic, which is why astronauts and cosmonauts rehearsing for this opportunity.
During the period from 2015 to 2016 in the American astronaut Scott Kelly and the Russian cosmonaut Misha Kornienko After spending a year in orbit, the crew had to seek protection in the Soyuz backhaul, as NASA and the Russian space agency Roskosmos a cloud of space junk on the way to the station. The danger passed without damage to the ship.
This time the break is in the Soyuz itself, which could prevent the crew from using it as a lifeboat and escape craft. The Soyuz is the venerable Russian three-person spacecraft, which has been flown since 1967. The ships are now used to bring crew members to the ISS. They are then docked to the space station and used again to bring the crew back to Earth. For now, the leak is small – just 2mm – but such a break in the bulkhead can result in complete pressure relief.
Jules Verne's Automated Transfer Vehicle as seen at the bottom of the International Space Station
Encyclopedia Britannica / UIG-Getty Images / Universal Images Group  The crew is for now the low-tech step of packing garbage – drops or other garbage – against the site of the leak, where the suction of the escaping air keeps them in place. You will perform a permanent repair using an epoxy sealant.
A NASA spokesperson confirmed to TIME over the phone that the pressure relief on the space station poses no immediate threat to crew safety, adding, "There was not complete pressure relief. It was a small leak that led to a docked Soyuz became. "
The pressure relief in orbit has happened before. In 1997, the space station Mir was nailed down by an incoming cargo vehicle Progress, which led to a break in one of the modules of Mir. This break was much larger than the current one, but the crew managed to pop the hatch to the affected module to isolate the leak.
The severity of any leaks can be determined very easily by the crew. If your ears are not cracking, there was no significant break. If they poke a little and hurt a bit, it's a little break. Fear is a fracture severe enough to break an eardrum and cause severe pain. In the worst cases, that would be the last thing the crew would ever feel.