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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Russian Cosmonauts Find Hole in Soyuz Spacecraft During Spacewalk

Spacewalker Oleg Kononenko is on the Strela boom getting ready for inspection work on the Soyuz crew vehicle. Credit: NASA

Expedition 57 Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos completed on Tuesday a spacewalk lasting 7 hours and 45 minutes. The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 10:59 a.m. EST. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 6:44 p.m. EST.

"Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev successfully completed the spacewalk as part of the Russian space program. The principal task of EVA-45A was to inspect the outside surface of the International Space Station and habitation module of Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft," Roscosmos said in a statement.

During the spacewalk, the two examined the external hull of the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the space station, took images, and applied a thermal blanket. They also retrieved science experiments from the Rassvet module before heading back inside.

"When the cosmonauts unsealed the screen vacuum thermal insulation and micrometeoroid guard on the outside surface of Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft’s habitation module, they discovered a small hole that presents no danger to the ISS crew. It also won’t threaten the spacecraft’s crew when it returns to Earth on December 20," Roscosmos said.

The hole was discovered at the habitation module that will separate from the descent vehicle after undocking from the ISS, and will later burn in the Earth atmosphere. At this time, Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gets, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will all be inside the descent vehicle.

After the completion of the work with the hole, the cosmonauts were to apply a patch piece and secure it with clips. The ground crew decided not to do it.

Kononenko and Prokopyev did not have time to pick up the containers of the Test and the Endurance experiments left for display on the Poisk research module, but this task was not a priority. It was planned to be executed only if the cosmonauts had time left after working with the spacecraft's hull.

It was the 213th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly, maintenance and upgrades, the fourth for Kononenko, and the second for Prokopyev.

Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst are scheduled to depart the station in the Soyuz MS-09 at 8:42 p.m. Dec. 19, returning home to Earth after a six-and-half-month mission.

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