Hole in International Space Station Plugged with a Finger and Some Tape
Sometimes, a great problem has a surprisingly easy solution. A great problem, such as oxygen leaking out of the International Space Station.
Last Friday, astronauts on the ISS set about investigating the cause of a drop in air pressure. The culprit: a two-millimetre wide hole found in the Russian Soyuz portion attached to the station, believed to have been caused by a micrometeorite or space debris (there’s quite a lot of rubbish floating in space).
The crew aboard the International Space Station is conducting troubleshooting and repair work today after the discovery of a tiny leak last night traced to the Russian segment of the orbital complex. More… https://t.co/MbtYrlFuO0 pic.twitter.com/eAOa8tVadQ
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) August 30, 2018
Whilst the hole wasn’t big enough to cause any major alarm—it would have taken 18 days for the station to run out of air—the leak had to be addressed immediately. So, what did the astronauts aboard the ISS do?
Like the Little Dutch Boy who put his finger in the dike, one of the astronauts, namely Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, did the same. He put his finger over the hole to stop the air pressure from dropping further.
But, of course, he couldn’t stay there forever. (Also, no Little Dutch Boy ever saved an entire town with his finger. Sorry to disappoint.) A bit of tape—specifically, Kapton tape—was used to cover the hole, which was then mended with a bit of epoxy.
Conditions have stabilised after oxygen supply from a cargo capsule was used to replenish the air, and the crew went about their usual merry ways on Friday. It takes a special sort of people to remain calm whilst oxygen levels were running low. (Definitely not us.)