[FPSPACE] Sabotage by US crew reportedly being studied as possible cause of Soyuz leak

bart hendrickx bhen at telenet.be
Wed Sep 12 05:07:49 EDT 2018

https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3738617 <https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3738617>

The Kommersant newspaper quotes a “highly placed source” in the space industry as saying that a leading theory for the cause of the Soyuz leak now being studied is that one of the US astronauts deliberately drilled a hole in the Soyuz orbital module to speed up the crew’s return to Earth. It is suspected that one of the US crew may be suffering from a medical condition that would require him to return to Earth early. Quoting its source, Kommersant says : “The urgent evacuation of the entire crew from the station would have allowed him to undergo full medical treatment and the orbital module (where the leak was discovered) would have burned up in the atmosphere. In case of a medical emergency the Americans would have to pay for a new ship”. According to Kommersant, Roscosmos has asked NASA to hand over private medical data on the US astronauts and also video footage showing the astronauts’ whereabouts.

As TASS reported this morning, a Roscosmos official has declined to react to the story, saying he will refrain from any comments on media stories until the results of the investigation are officially presented.

Answering a question about the status of the investigation yesterday, Roscosmos chief Dmitri Rogozin said “the situation has turned out to be much more complex than we thought”. After an internal investigation by RKK Energiya (which seemingly has found no evidence for any damage to the vehicle done deliberately or inadvertently on the ground), the investigation has now been turned over to a Roscosmos commission headed by Rogozin’s first deputy Nikolai Sevastyanov. Rogozin said yesterday that law-enforcement officials are taking part in the investigation.

So the reasoning apparently is that the US crew wanted to cover up a medical condition and sabotaged the Soyuz, allowing them to return to Earth early for treatment and hoping that the evidence would burn up on re-entry. By making it look as if the emergency return was caused by a technical rather than a medical problem, NASA would not have to pay for a new Soyuz to send up a replacement crew. All this seems to border on paranoia, but Kommersant is not some sensationalist tabloid newspaper and the Russians may well be looking at this as a serious possibility. Note that Rogozin has earlier alluded to the fact that the crew itself may have been responsible for the leak.

Bart Hendrickx

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