Spacewalking astronauts were ripped through the insulation on a capsule that stopped to the International Space Station in search of clues to a cryptic drilled hole that escaped precious cabin air. The incident happened four months back. The hole was spotted in the external hull of the Soyuz capsule. Spacewalkers reported there were no drill marks around the black dot.
Recently in August, the station crew repaired the hole in the Soyuz capsule. They plugged it with epoxy and gauze. Before the capsule’s return to Earth along with Prokopyev and two others, Russian space officials wanted the site to be surveyed from the outside. This part of the capsule will be detached as usual before atmospheric re-entry and hence it positions no risk for the descent.
To reach the Soyuz, Prokopyev and Kononenko used a pair of telescoping booms, which took nearly four hours for them to get there. The insulation proved tougher to remove than expected which conceded a couple of hours extra. To unveil the external hull, they cut away a 10-inch swatch of debris shield and thermal insulation. The astronauts took samples of the black epoxy sealant leaking from the hole.
One of the spacewalkers said, it was difficult to operate, but they were able to get it done. The spacewalkers walked for almost eight hours. NASA stated that the pieces of freed insulation would likely burn up in the atmosphere in a day or so and thus posed no threats to the space station.
A Russian investigation is underway, according to Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin, and samples taken during the spacewalk will be returned to Earth. The officials told that the findings could lead to better repair techniques in the future.
The Soyuz will leave the orbiting lab on Dec 19 (U.S. time). The spacewalk was amongst the 213th spacewalks in 20 years at the space station.