Investigators did not specify whether they believed the hole was drilled on Earth or in space, but Russia's Roscosmosspace agency did not exclude the possibility of sabotage. But, Dmitry Rogozinreportedly said, whoever did it had a "wavering hand" and there had been several attempts at drilling.
A commission will seek to identify the culprit by name, Rogozin said, calling this a "matter of honour" for Russia's Energiya space manufacturing company that made the Soyuz.
When the leak was detected last week, one astronaut on board, Alexander Gerst, first plugged it with his finger. "We are checking the Earth version", he explained, AFPreports, "but there is another version that we do not rule out".
"We are considering all theories", he said on Monday.
Another report from the same agency suggested a production error from an Earth-bound employee was to blame. Prokopyev temporarily covered it with Kapton tape and later used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug it. NASA and Roscosmos repeatedly said the crew was never in any danger.
The Soyuz MS-09 will not be used to bring back astronauts from the ISS so any other damages to the spacecraft will not be endangering their lives.
The source of the air leak was traced to a 2mm fracture in the hull of the RussianmannedSoyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the orbital outpost.
He added that he hoped the cause was "a production defect" rather than sabotage, but said that too would be "very sad" as "there's been nothing like this in the history of Soyuz ships".
The Expedition 56 crew - comprised of three NASA astronauts, one European astronaut, and two Russian cosmonauts - quickly found a 2-millimeter hole responsible for the leak. "There is a version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space".
The hole was found on the Soyuz spaceship, which ferried astronauts to the ISS back in June.
Gerst of Germany and astronaut Serena Auñón of U.S. and cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev from Russian Federation are all due to using the same affected Soyuz vehicle to return to Earth before the end of this year.
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