On August 30th, the International Space Station experienced an unexpected and much reported upon loss in pressure due to a puncture in the Soyuz reentry capsule attached to it.
The 2 millimeter hole was quickly found by cosmonauts and patched with multiple layers of a resin intended for this purpose.
Rumors in certain Russian news services erupted, claiming deliberate sabotage by American astronauts on board, usually citing unknown or anonymous sources. Even major players in the Russian science community, such as the internationally recognized space news source Sputnik offered old Soviet style innuendo and misdirection intended to encourage distrust, even hostility, toward America.
Sputnik reported, for example:
The situation around a hole in the fabric of a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, docked to the International Space Station (ISS), is more complicated than it was expected, Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos stated.
Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, confirmed that a commission of Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation had failed to determine the origin of the hole yet.
“The results that we have received fail to provide an objective image [of the situation] to us. Further work will be continued by a commission created by the [Roscosmos] corporation itself. The situation is far more difficult than we have expected,” Rogozin told reported.
Rogozin refused to comment on media reports alleging that US astronauts could have been responsible for the emergence of the hole on Soyuz.
A source told Sputnik on Thursday that an internal investigation, held by Energia, which is the spacecraft manufacturer, showed that the hole had been deliberately made by a drill bit. The company, however, failed to identify the perpetrators.”
In fact, Rogozin commented on his Facebook page that, “The recent gossip and rumors circulating about the incident at the ISS hinder the work of Roscosmos experts and are designed to subvert the friendly relations among the crew members of the space station.”
“All statements citing unnamed sources are inadmissible until Roscosmos special commission concludes its work,” the CEO stressed.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said earlier in the day that it was inadmissible to accuse either Russian or American ISS crewmembers of the incident since “it is a unified crew with no political disagreements whatsoever.”
TASS, the Russian News Agency, published an article seeming seeking to mitigate the rumors, but then reinforced them, noting
“Russia’s Kommersant daily reported on Tuesday citing its unnamed sources that the Roscosmos probe was considering, among other likely causes of the damage to Soyuz, deliberate actions by US astronauts, who in this way wished to speed up their return home.
According to the newspaper, the astronauts might have drilled the hole because one of the crew members was unwell. Urgent evacuation of all crewmembers would allow for getting full treatment, while the compartment where the hole was found would have burned down in the atmosphere. Roscosmos said it would refrain from making comments on the issue until the special probe reported its findings.”
The Russian cosmonauts who repaired the damage, stopped the leak and averted a potential disaster merit recognition, international recognition and respect. Russia’s advances and contribution to both the ISS and science in general are significant and largely on par to ours or anyone’s at this stage. Many, no most, of those accomplishments are largely unknown outside the scientific community, a fact which is unfortunate, unnecessary, and should be corrected. However, such accomplishments are diminished when, in instances like this one, where after members of the Russian media often loudly accuse their American counterparts of ill-conceived political spin, they themselves jump blindly off the creditability cliff.
Pot, kettle and all of that.
TASS, Sputnik and the Russian media corps should consider the reputations of their admirable and praise worthy scientific community, and the sabotage they often do to it with such “reporting”.
American hands aren’t completely clean on this issue. Our press can be easily agitated and unapologetic when it makes mistakes, but come on, we’ve yet to accuse, however indirectly, Russian cosmonauts of deliberately endangering the lives of their fellow scientists, as well, it should be noted, as their own.