A MYSTERIOUS hole found on the International Space Station (ISS) was in fact drilled from inside the orbiting lab.
That’s according to Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, who investigated the major breach during a spacewalk earlier this month.
Crew first found the hole in August in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS, which is currently home to three astronauts.
But just what caused the damage remains a mystery despite the best efforts of investigators at Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
Top brass have previously suggested the capsule may have been damaged by a meteorite or deliberately sabotaged – either by a Russian engineer on the ground or an astronaut in orbit.
Prokopyev said at a news conference Monday that the hole was definitely punched from the capsule’s interior, suggesting the damage was not caused by a rogue meteorite.
He added that ‘it’s up to the investigative organs to judge when that hole was made.’
Moscow is now examining samples Prokopyev and crewmate Oleg Kononenko collected during a December 12 spacewalk in an effort to find out what caused the hole.
The pair returned to Earth with samples sheered from the space station last week.
During the tense five hour spacewalk they had to rip through thick insulation on the Soyuz capsule docked at the station to look for clues.
The hole was discovered after a drop in pressure due to an air leak was detected on the orbital station overnight on August 30.
The station crew quickly patched the hole in the Soyuz capsule, plugging it with strong glue and gauze.
Initially it was thought the damage could have been caused by a micrometeorite piercing the spacecraft.
But in September a space source speaking to Russia’s official Tass news agency claimed that signs of drilling had been found around the hole.
Russia’s space agency head Dmitry Rogozin — a close ally of Vladimir Putin — then raised the possibility of sabotage.
He said the hole was made by a drill, either while the capsule was on Earth or in space, by someone with a “wavering hand”.
“Where it was made will be established by a second commission, which is at work now,” he said.
The mystery deepened in October when investigators confirmed the damage was not caused by a manufacturing defect.
Nasa then issued a counter statement arguing that ruling out defects “does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent”.
It is hoped that samples of the Soyuz craft will help investigators finally unravel whatever – or whoever – was responsible for the hole.