Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) who were woken during the middle of the night continued to look for an abnormal air leak on the station. Crew members have been looking for the source of the abnormality for several weeks.
Potential growing threat
On Monday, however, the investigation was prioritized after the size of the leak allegedly grew larger. The problematic reading was revealed to have been caused by a change in temperature within the ISS.
According to BBC, ground teams analyzed the data and traced the leak back to the main work area, which was located inside a Russian ISS module named Zvezda. The module was used to store life support equipment for the station and was also the living quarters of two crew members.
Experts said they would need to conduct further analysis to determine the exact point where the air is leaking.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reassured that the anomaly posed no significant risk to the crew members and the space station at the leak rate they are currently observing. Officials added the problem would only cause a minor adjustment to the crew's work schedule.
Chris Cassidy, a NASA astronaut and the station commander of the crew, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, were told to move into the Russian section to gather various data from different areas of the Russian module.
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To collect data, each of the crew members closed hatches the aft and forward portions of Zvezda, along with passageways going to other compartment and modules using an equipment called an ultrasonic leak detector.
The investigation is the third time within a month that the team had to keep themselves isolated on the Russian side of the space station in order to discover the location of the air leak.
Conditions in space
The ISS is not entirely airtight, and small amounts of gas continuously escape into space. However, the station is regularly repressurized using nitrogen gas tanks that are brought by cargo spacecraft, as reported by Space.com.
Station managers noticed in September 2019 a slight increase in the reduction of gases. It took analysts a little bit of time to fully characterize the source of the leak due to how busy the crew members' schedule is.
According to Inquirer, the executive director of Russia's manned space programs, Sergei Krikalyov, said that the problem was not critical in nature for the foreseeable future.
Krikalyov noted the leaks were predictable and that what was currently happening within the space station was an increase of the regular leakage rate. The executive director added that if the anomaly continues for an extended period, it will result in the need for extra supplies of gases to the ISS.
Despite the thorough search, Krikalyov noted the investigation would prove difficult due to the sheer size of the area that the crew needed to explore. He added that he was confident the team would eventually find the source of the leak.
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