In 2018, a space scandal broke out between Washington and Moscow, following the joint mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
An air leak was detected in one of the Russian Soyuz capsules docked to the orbiting laboratory. There was a 2-millimeter puncture drilled near the toilet.
The unveiled details indicated that the hole was likely made by the a NASA astronaut Serena Maria Auñón-Chancellor.
Roscosmos immediately ruled out the version that the damage to the Soyuz-MS-09 was made on the ground. The spacecraft had successfully passed the test in a vacuum chamber before launching. The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, stated that traces of metal dust left from drilling were found in the amenity compartment.
According to the traces in Soyuz, the hole was made after 7 failed attempts. It was drilled in zero gravity conditions by someone who was not familiar with the construction of the Soyuz. Thus, the Russian crew were excluded from the list of suspects. Commander of the U.S. crew Andrew Feustel was trained to fulfill the tasks of an engineer before the flight on the Russian spaceship, Richard Arnold was a second flight engineer on the Soyuz. Thus, Serena became the main suspect.
Russian news agency TASS reported, referring to a high-ranking official in the Russian space industry, that Auñón-Chancellor suffered a disease that “could provoke an acute psychological crisis,” that in its turn could lead to her attempts to speed up her return on Earth.
She is supposed to have committed the first space sabotage in history.
NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency. We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations. pic.twitter.com/y0Lr2NpiUm— Kathy Lueders (@KathyLueders) August 13, 2021
However, in two years, the investigation has led to no result. In 2019, a special commission of Roscosmos, investigating the reasons, considered the deliberate actions of American astronauts as one of the versions.
On August 15, 2021, Dmitry Rogozin claimed that Roscosmos did not accuse NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor of drilling the hole.
At the moment, no other details on the accident have been unveiled, no other versions of the events have been officially announced.
The recent claims by Rogozin only indicate that the Russians are trying to avoid any conflicts in order not to harm the international cooperation in space, one of the few fields of cooperation left between Russia and the U.S.
Americans cannot admit the failure in the system of psychological and health checking of their astronauts, while Russians do not have enough political weight and information resources to solve the situation in their favor in the public space. Thus, Moscow backs down.
It will be a difficult task to prove Serena ‘s innocence or to sweep it under the rug. The case was highly publicized both in Russia and the U.S. The investigation cannot last forever, and “perpetrators” will be punished one day.
If aliens were not behind the sabotage…