The International Space Station is a set of modules that are assembled into each other. They form a structure the size of a football field. This space apartment, with a breathtaking view of the Earth, is able to accommodate six to eight people continuously. Since the start-up in 2000, astronauts from all over the world take turns at the station.
Never in 20 years has the unit found itself without human life on board. However, the ISS came closest to disaster last week. The Soyuz spacecraft that was supposed to bring astronauts back to Earth in an emergency has started leaking.
Within hours, the air pressure level in the module dropped. Before ground crews understand the gravity of the situation, the entire space station will be affected.
According to several experts, this is the most important incident in the station’s history. The official speech from NASA assures him that an investigation still needs to assess the damage caused by a loss of oxygen in the station.
A major incident?
While the incident is in full swing, Roscosmos teams quickly recognize that their module is the source of the leak. The temperature has changed too much, it is declared “unusable”. An announcement which, however, embarrasses the seven astronauts on board.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ship, which is their only exit door, only has four seats. An emergency evacuation is therefore currently impossible. While they wait for Russia to send a new ship to the ISS, which should happen within a few days, the three space agencies responsible for the station are trying to understand the reasons for this leak.
Each country has its own idea on the subject, without however rejecting the two third hypotheses. Most likely, the passage of the Geminid asteroids a few weeks ago caused an impact on the ISS. But for NASA, this theory doesn’t match the markings on the station.
Space debris as suspect number 1?
On ESA’s side, it is space debris that is incriminated. These items lost in orbit are absolute hazards. Uncontrollable, they come and go in orbit, forcing the ISS to track them to predict their trajectory and thus avoid a collision at 27,000 km/h.
If the impact could be caused by space debris, Russia is not out of the woods yet. A few months ago, a hole had been discovered by the astronauts in the ISS. It had jeopardized the entire mission and was caused by an assembly line failure in Russia.
Heavy suspicions still hang over Moscow. The investigation is ongoing by NASA, ESA and Roscosmos, as the astronauts on board are still waiting for their second rescue vehicle to bring them back to Earth if necessary.