Russia fears: ISS crew find cracks on module as Kremlin wages war with NASA

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Officials in confirmed on Monday the presence of “superficial” cracks in the Russian-built Zarya module. Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of the Russian aerospace firm Energia, warned the cracks may yet spread, which could lead to a possible oxygen leak. Zarya is one of the six pressurised modules on the Russian section of the ISS, and the very first of the 16 ISS modules to be launched into more than 20 years ago.

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, has not confirmed whether the cracks have contributed to a leak on the ISS.

However, Mr Solovyov warned the problem could lead to an “avalanche” of problems further down the road.

But it appears to be business as usual with cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov preparing for a planned spacewalk on September 3.

The crew are tasked with connecting power cables to the ISS’s new Nauka module, which .

Roscosmos said: “The crew has finished studying the onboard documentation and the spacewalk sequence, hydrolaboratory training videos, rails and working areas on the outer surface of the ISS.”

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International Space Station in orbit of Earth

Russian cosmonauts have discovered new cracks on the ISS (Image: NASA)

International Space Station segments diagram

The various segments of the International Space Station (Image: NASA)

NASA has also remained tight-lipped about the cracks, instead focusing its attention on the arrival of a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

The spacecraft docked to the ISS on Monday morning (Eastern Time), carrying supplies, experiments and ice cream for the astronauts.

And this isn’t the first time cracks have appeared on the 23-year-old space station, prompting an onboard emergency.

A after mission controllers noted oxygen levels were slowly dropping.

The and cabin pressure was restored, following a “minor reduction of station pressure”.

ESA gives International Space Station toilet tour in 2015

International Space Station fact sheet

International Space Station fact sheet: Incredible facts about the ISS (Image: EXPRESS)

Similar incidents occurred in 2019, 2020 and in March this year.

The news comes off the back of a reported conflict between NASA and Roscosmos’s top brass.

Earlier this month, an unnamed “high-ranking” official within Roscomos accused NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor of drilling into the ISS in 2018 to trigger an early evacuation of the station.

Orbiting the planet at an altitude of about 253 miles (408km), ISS crews are rotated every six months or so – though some missions last longer.

There are presently seven astronauts on the ISS: Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet from France, Akihiko Hoshide from Japan and NASA’s Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei.

Following the accusations, NASA officials came out in support of their astronauts.

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Zarya cargo module in orbit of Earth

The Zarya cargo module was the first module of the ISS launched into space (Image: NASA)

International Space Station in 2000

The International Space Station in 2000 – just two years into assembly (Image: NASA)

Kathy Lueders, chief of NASA’s human spaceflight operations, said: “Serena is an extremely well-respected crew member who has served her country and made invaluable contributions to the agency.

“And I stand behind Serena – we stand behind Serena and her professional conduct and I did not find this accusation credible.”

Similarly, Senator Bill Nelson, the Joe Biden-appointed NASA administrator, took to Twitter to say: “I wholeheartedly agree with Kathy’s statement.

“I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.”

However, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscomos, has since come out to deny the accusations.

The Russian space tzar stressed Roscomos does not blame anyone for the 2018 leak.

He said on Twitter: “No one ever accused her. I read an interview with blogger Kotov.

“There are many bloggers in the world, but you threw a tantrum about one of them.

“Roscosmos is not blaming anyone. We do not want trouble for our cooperation.”

Harry Byrne

Harry Byrne

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