Last week, the Soyuz capsule left the ISS and returned three crew members safely back to Earth. The capsule landing marked the end of a thrilling passage aboard the ISS for NASA astronaut Serena Auñon-Chancellor, German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev. We wondered at the time if the capsule had the samples that the Russian cosmonauts had cut from a mysterious hole that appeared in that same Soyuz module.
The samples cut around the hole were aboard the Soyuz that returned to Earth last week. Cosmonauts Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko collected the samples during a spacewalk on 12 December. One of the cosmonauts confirmed that the opening was made inside the ISS and confirmed that Russian police are working to determine what caused the problem.
Russia speculates that sabotage may be the main cause, but the ISS crew has denied any possibility of sabotage. Prokopyev said: "You should not think so badly about our team."
The hole was discovered when a loss of pressure was noticed on board the station. The crew was then able to quickly locate the hole and seal it using epoxy and glue. The hole posed no risk to ISS crew members or to the crew returning to Earth aboard the capsule.
The investigation is underway and no final decision has been taken. Russia said the hole could have been caused on the ground before launching or in orbit.