science

Nasa and Russian space agency look for fix for leaking space station



An astronaut temporarily plugged up a hole in the International Space Station with his finger as they work to patch up a tiny gap in the floating lab.

The tiny leak means that the astronauts are actually touching space and that air is gradually escaping from the inside.

Astronauts have successfully given the hole a temporary fix to ensure that they are safe. But they are continuing to look for a way of permanently fixing up the hole.

Nasa and Russian space agency officials have stressed that the astronauts – who were asleep when the leak was found – are in no immediate danger.

The leak was detected Wednesday night — possibly from a micrometeorite strike — when it caused a small drop in cabin pressure. It was traced to a hole about 2 millimeters (less than one-tenth of an inch) across in a Soyuz capsule docked at the space station. 

Thursday morning, the crew taped over the hole, slowing the leak. Later, the two Russian spacemen put sealant on a cloth and stuck it over the area, while their colleagues took photos for engineers on the ground. Flight controllers, meanwhile, monitored the cabin pressure while working to come up with a better long-term solution.

Mission Control outside Moscow told the astronauts to let the sealant dry overnight and that more leak checks would be conducted Friday. The makeshift repairs seem to have stabilised the situation, at least for now, officials said. Earlier, flight controllers tapped into the oxygen supply of a Russian cargo capsule to partially replenish the atmosphere in the station. 

The leaking Soyuz — one of two up there — arrived at the orbiting lab in June with three astronauts. It’s their ride home, too, come December, and also serves as a lifeboat in case of an emergency. A NASA spokesman said it was premature to speculate on whether the three might have to return to Earth early if the leak, even as small as it is, cannot be stopped. 

The hole is located in the upper, spherical section of the Soyuz, which does not return to Earth, according to NASA. 

The 250-mile-high outpost is home to three Americans, two Russians and one German. Orbital debris is a constant threat, even the tiniest specks.

Additional reporting by Associated Press



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