Cosmonauts armed with knives and cutters hack into Soyuz space capsule in search of hole
You need steady hands when you’re hurtling around the Earth at 27,000 kilometres per hour in a pressurised spacesuit holding a knife and hacking a hole in a Soyuz capsule from the outside.
- An unexplained hole in the Soyuz capsule was detected back in August
- It was filled with cloth and a sealant
- Cosmonauts wanted to inspect their handywork from the outside and return samples to Earth
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev weren’t locked out and trying to get back in, they were looking for remnants of a hole that caused a leak in the capsule back in August.
To do that they had to messily cut into the heat shield on the outside of the habitation module and peel it back to expose where the hole had been sealed with epoxy from the inside, all while it was docked to the International Space Station (ISS).
“I’m really afraid to cut the cable. It should be somewhere here,” Mr Kononenko says at the height of the six-hour operation.
Be careful, mission control tells him.
Back in August there was a drop in air pressure on the ISS and a 2-millimetre hole was found on a docked Russian Soyuz capsule.
Astronauts were unsure how the hole got there but plugged it using a bit of cloth and epoxy sealant.
And because this particular module of the capsule will split off and burn up on re-entry back to Earth, they wanted to analyse their repair job from the outside and scrape off some samples of the epoxy to return to Earth and study.
Hence the precarious, hours-long spacewalk where one cosmonaut tried to hold the shielding back while the other kept cutting and looking for the hole.
It took a lot of cutting. And got frustrating at times.
The mess of the heat shield got in the way and Mr Prokopyev had to help out while Mr Kononenko cut and snipped through the material.
At 5 hours and 20 minutes they found it.
From that point on they used a GoPro camera to film the hole and fumbled with scissors in their oversized gloves as they cut off a bit of the sealant to bag and send back to Earth.
The pair then returned back inside the space station after determining that they wouldn’t need to cover their handywork with a thermal blanket.
The hole was in the orbital module, also known as the habitation module — one of three modules on the Soyuz vehicle.
The cosmonauts will return to Earth next week safely inside the descent module with their samples from the spacewalk, while the two other modules will separate and burn up in the atmosphere.