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Mystery leak investigation continues on International Space Station

NASA, Russian astronauts will again stay on Russian side of ISS this weekend

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy uses an ultrasonic leak detector to check windows around the ISS for the source of a small air leak on the International Space Station. (Image: NASA/Chris Cassidy)
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy uses an ultrasonic leak detector to check windows around the ISS for the source of a small air leak on the International Space Station. (Image: NASA/Chris Cassidy) (WKMG 2020)

NASA and the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos are still working to determine what is causing a small air leak on the International Space Station, the source of which has so far evaded detection.

The current ISS residents, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin, will move to the Russian portion of the station this weekend, beginning Friday, to allow testing to continue throughout the rest of the ISS. This will be the second time the astronauts will isolate in an effort to trace the air leak. According to NASA, the leak was first detected in September 2019 but has increased in recent months.

During the astronaut isolation through Monday, the rest of the hatches on the ISS will be closed to try and locate the leak by monitoring air pressure in each module, according to NASA.

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Cassidy said in a series of tweets that Moscow and Houston mission control centers have been tracking the leak for several months but so far have had no luck finding the source. For the past two days, Cassidy and Ivanishin have been inspecting all of the window seals on the space station using an ultrasonic leak detector.

“So far, no luck finding the source, but it looks like we will try again with the module isolation this weekend,” Cassidy said. “No harm or risk to us as the crew, but it is important to find the leak we are not wasting valuable air.”

NASA said the astronauts will spend Friday gathering items for their weekend on the Zvezda service module before closing the rest of the station hatches.

Next month, NASA and its international partners will celebrate 20 years of astronauts permanently living on the space station.

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