Cosmonauts on Spacewalk Cut Into Soyuz Spacecraft to Inspect Patched Hole

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After more than five hours of a rare broadcast - showing the cosmonauts in space trying to cut through an insulate of the spacecraft with a knife - they uncovered the external part of the hole, originally discovered in the capsule's internal covering, and took samples of the exterior insulation, according to a Reuters report.

Spacewalking astronauts ripped through thick insulation on a capsule docked to the International Space Station on Tuesday, looking for clues to a mysterious drilled hole that leaked precious cabin air four months ago.

Roscosmos space agency said the aim was to discover whether the "small but dangerous" hole had been made on Earth or in space.

Kononenko arrived at the ISS on a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft last Tuesday, along with NASA's Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques, weeks after the previous launch had to be aborted shortly after takeoff.

After consulting with both Russian and US flight controllers, Prokopyev applied an epoxy to a gauze wipe and used it to plug the hole.

The spacewalk will be the fourth of Kononenko's career and he'll be wear a spacesuit with red stripes on this journey, while Prokopyev will bear blue stripes for his second spacewalk.

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If the hole was indeed sabotage, it's unclear where it would have been done while the module was in space or while it was being constructed back planetside. Russian space officials wanted the site surveyed from the outside, before the capsule's return to Earth next week with Prokopyev and two others.

The hole was repaired on the same day restoring the hermetic integrity of the ISS.

Kononenko used a pair of forceps and a swab to collect samples of the dark epoxy. The orbital compartment on which they worked is purposely jettisoned and destroyed during the re-entry of the Soyuz descent module into Earth's atmosphere. Those samples will eventually be returned to Earth when the Soyuz departs the space station and brings crew members back home.

Another look at Kononenko (in the spacesuit with red stripes) and Sergey Prokopyev (with blue stripes), cutting into the exterior insulation of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft during a December 11. Then the insulation proved harder to remove than expected, taking another one to two hours of effort.

This was the 213th spacewalk in 20 years at the space station. Prokopyev now has spent 15 hours and 31 minutes on EVA.

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