Sergei Prokopyev said investigators were looking at samples he and crewmate Oleg Kononenko collected during a December 12 spacewalk. Prokopyev and two other astronauts returned to Earth last week from a 197-day space station mission.
The hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station was spotted on Aug. 30. The crew discovered a leak that was creating a slight loss of pressure and plugged the hole with epoxy and gauze.
Prokopyev said at a news conference the cavity started from the capsule’s interior and “it’s up to the investigative organs to judge when that hole was made.”
The astronauts’ quick identification and repair of the hole demonstrated “the crew was ready for any developments,” he said.
The hole didn’t pose a danger to Prokopyev and crewmates Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency during their return because the section of the capsule it appeared on was jettisoned before the fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September the hole could have been drilled when the capsule was manufactured or in orbit. Rogozin stopped short of blaming crew members, but the statement has caused some friction between Roscosmos and NASA.
Some reports even suggested that Russians believed the hole had been intentionally drilled to allow NASA astronauts to return back to Earth. Rogozin has since back-pedaled from the statement, blaming the news media for twisting his words.
Prokopyev scoffed at the idea the hole could have been drilled by an astronaut, saying, “You shouldn’t think so badly of our crew.”
* This article was automatically syndicated and expanded from The Independent.