Cracks found on the International Space Station are a 'fairly serious issue,' a former NASA astronaut says

The International Space Station, photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft. NASA/Roscosmos

  • Former NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd gave Congress new details about cracks on the space station.

  • About half a dozen cracks appeared in Russia's Zarya module, but they aren't a danger to astronauts.

  • Investigating the cracks is a “fairly serious issue,” Shepherd said, and there are probably more.

Cracks are appearing on the International Space Station, and retired NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd says they're a “fairly serious issue.”

After Russian cosmonauts spotted the cracks on the station's Zarya module, Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the Russian segment of the ISS, publicly revealed the discovery in August. The cracks don't pose a danger to astronauts at this time, NASA says, and the agency told Insider last month that nobody had identified “new potential leak sites” on the station.

But in a House committee hearing on Tuesday, Shepherd told Congressional representatives that “there are probably other cracks we haven't found yet.”

“As far as I know, the Russian engineers and the NASA engineers – they've analyzed it – they don't exactly understand why these cracks are appearing now,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd has flown to orbit four times on the Space Shuttles. He worked on the International Space Station Program when its first modules were launching, and he commanded the first crew to the station in 2000. He said at the hearing that he'd learned more about the cracks in two meetings of NASA's ISS Advisory Committee, which he recently joined.

The cracks are “quite small – they look like scratches on the surface of the aluminum plate,” Shepherd said, adding, “there are probably something like half a dozen of them.”

NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

'This is bad'

A Soyuz spacecraft approaches a docking port on the space station’s Zarya module, December 22, 2009. NASA

Shepherd told the House committee that currently, the cracks are not long enough to pose a “serious problem.”

But last month, Solovyov told state-owned news agency RIA: “This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time,” according to a Reuters report translating his statement.

Solovyov did not share how extensive the cracks were at the time.

Shepherd didn't say whether NASA and Russia plan to further investigate the cracks beyond the analysis they already finished. In the past, both space agencies have taken their time when investigating and repairing issues that don't threaten the safety of astronauts or interfere with ISS operations.

The space station is getting old

An illustration shows an Axiom Space module orbiting above Earth. Axiom Space

The ISS has been orbiting Earth for 20 years, and it's showing signs of age. Russia's side of the space station hosts some of its oldest components, and the cracks are the latest in a series of issues in those modules.

Last year, a toilet on the segment went bust, temperatures mysteriously increased, and an oxygen-supply system broke down. In September 2019, another space-station module, Zvezda, which provides living quarters for the cosmonauts, started leaking air. That wasn't an immediate danger to astronauts, and they eventually found the hole and patched it with Kapton tape.

Russian media previously reported that Solovyov told the Russian Academy of Sciences: “There are already a number of elements that have been seriously damaged and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche-like failure of numerous elements onboard the ISS.”

Even Russia's newest module – a spacecraft called Nauka, which it launched to the ISS in July – has experienced serious problems. Shortly after it docked to the station, Nauka began unexpectedly firing its thrusters. This caused the entire ISS to spin around 540 degrees and flip upside down before flight controllers regained control an hour later.

A screenshot from NASA’s livestream shows the Nauka module approaching its port on the International Space Station, July 29, 2021. NASA via Youtube

NASA has the funds to keep operating the ISS through 2024, and it's aiming to get an extension from Congress to continue the station's activities through 2028.

But Shepherd said that NASA should first solve the mystery of the Zarya module's new cracks.

“Getting to the bottom of this is a fairly serious issue,” Shepherd said. “I don't think the station's in any immediate danger. But before we clear the station for another so many years of operational use, we should better understand this.”

The ISS will eventually be retired and push itself into the atmosphere to burn up. After that, NASA doesn't want to build a new station; the agency is recruiting private companies to do that instead. It's currently evaluating about a dozen space-station proposals from various companies, with the aim of distributing $400 million among two to four of them.

Sergei Krikalev (left) and James H. Newman begin work on the Zarya module, December 11, 1998 NASA

Eventually, NASA hopes to be one of many customers on private commercial space stations.

The agency has already awarded Axiom Space $140 million to fly modules up to the ISS that will eventually detach from it to become their own space station. Axiom aims to launch its first module to the ISS in 2024.

China, meanwhile, launched the first piece of its own space station earlier this year, and astronauts completed their first three-month mission there last week.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Public lists shiba inu coin on its trading platform as the Robinhood rival broadens crypto offerings

© Shutterstock A shiba inu dog. Shutterstock Shutterstock Crypto traders can now buy and sell shiba inu coin on trading app Public, the company said. Public added cryptocurrency trading to ... Read more »

Mammoths driven to extinction because of climate change - not human hunters, study says

The rapidity of the changes to tundra landscapes left mammoths with little to eat, new research reveals (Daniel Eskridge) For around five million years, various species of mammoth walked the ... Read more »

Fears of a toy shortage are overblown, Wall Street analysts say - but don't expect huge holiday sales

© By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Image Shoppers looking at dolls in the toy section of a Target. By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/Getty Image Wall Street analysts say they “aren’t as alarmed” ... Read more »

Another bitcoin-futures ETF is slated to start trading in October

© Edward Smith/Getty Images Bitcoin notched a new all-time high above $66,000 on Wednesday. Edward Smith/Getty Images VanEck looks ready to launch its bitcoin-futures ETF next week under the ticker ... Read more »

United Airlines CEO warns that ticket prices will increase because jet fuel is getting more expensive

© Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images United Airlines planes are seen at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, United States on September 29, 2021. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty ... Read more »

Biden roasts 55 companies like Nike and FedEx for paying less in taxes than the price of a cup of coffee

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden visits a coffee shop on May 14, 2019 in Concord, New Hampshire. Spencer Platt/Getty Images) President Joe ... Read more »

Netflix suma más de 4 millones de nuevos suscriptores gracias al impulso de "El Juego del Calamar"

© Proporcionado por El Universal Online Netflix suma más de 4 millones de nuevos suscriptores gracias al impulso de “El Juego del Calamar”  Netflix anunció unos beneficios que duplican los ... Read more »

Netflix suma más de 4 millones de nuevos suscriptores tras estreno de "El Juego del Calamar"

© Proporcionado por El Universal Online Netflix suma más de 4 millones de nuevos suscriptores tras estreno de “El Juego del Calamar”  Netflix anunció unos beneficios que duplican los conseguidos ... Read more »

Deontay Wilder's trainer reveals key reason for knockout loss to Tyson Fury

(Getty Images) Deontay Wilder did not make excuses following his knockout defeat by Tyson Fury and was destabilised during the fight by a punch to his ear, according to the ... Read more »

Lloyds Bank to shut 48 branches amid decline in customer visits

Around 7,655 banks still remain on British high streets. Photo: Getty Images Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) is set to shut down another 48 of its branches, blaming a fall in ... Read more »

Toiletries like toothpaste, face wash, and razors are the next victims of inflation as the supply chain crisis slams the retail industry

© Provided by Business Insider The cost of products like Gillette Razors, a brand owned by Procter & Gamble, are on the rise. Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Procter ... Read more »

Elon Musk's SpaceX sees valuation jump 33% to top $100 billion, becoming the 2nd-most valuable private company, report says

© Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images The valuation of Elon Musk’s SpaceX skyrocketed to $100 billion, CNBC reported. A secondary sale of shares valued them ... Read more »

Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones says inflation is the single biggest threat to financial markets and is 'much worse' than feared

© REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo Paul Tudor Jones, founder and CIO of Tudor Investment Corporation. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo Paul Tudor Jones said inflation is the top threat to financial markets and ... Read more »

The Orionid meteor shower peaks this week, but a Hunter's Moon will make shooting stars harder to spot

A stargazer waits to watch a meteor shower in Ontario, Canada, August 12, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill The Orionids meteor shower peaks late Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning. Up ... Read more »

6 datos de las vacunas que te convencerán para vacunarte contra el COVID-19

© Redacción Chicas reciben una vacuna contra el COVID-19. 6 datos de las vacunas que te convencerán para vacunarte contra el COVID-19 © Proporcionado por Business Insider España Primero en ... Read more »

Five with MIT ties elected to the National Academy of Medicine for 2021

Professors Linda Griffith and Feng Zhang along with Guillermo Ameer SCD ’99, Darrell Gaskin SM ’87, and Vamsi Mootha recognized for contributions to medical sciences, health care, and public health. Read more »

Millions of sidelined workers won't come back 'unless the math makes better sense to them'

© Mario Tama/Getty Images A ‘We’re Hiring!’ sign is displayed at a Starbucks on Hollywood Boulevard on June 23, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images Sidelined workers could ... Read more »

Inside the public-cloud strategies for 6 top investment firms looking to use the tech cut costs and analyze data faster

© Samantha Lee/Business Insider The buy side is embracing the public cloud. Samantha Lee/Business Insider Buy-side firms are increasingly looking to migrate workloads to the public cloud. Some view the ... Read more »

Supply-chain experts agree that consumers fueled the everything shortage - and might be able to help fix it

© Provided by Business Insider Container ships and gantry cranes in Felixstowe, Suffolk, United Kingdom. John Lamb/Getty Images Experts say consumers fueled the supply-chain crisis by buying more goods during ... Read more »

The average Golden Corral customer is a retired senior who goes every weekend, according to the data

© Mary Meisenzahl/Insider Golden Corral now has to-go options. Mary Meisenzahl/Insider The typical Golden Corral customer is over 65 years old and lives in the south. They’re more likely to ... Read more »

Pinterest soars 19% on reports PayPal is exploring acquisition of social media company for $39 billion

© REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Pinterest stock soared as much as 19% on Wednesday after reports surfaced that PayPal is exploring an acquisition of the company. ... Read more »

It's not just empty shelves - online shoppers are nearly 3 times as likely to be disappointed by 'out-of-stock' warnings this holiday season as they were pre-pandemic

© Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images Empty shelves are visible at a Target retail store in Contra Costa County, San Ramon, California Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images Online “out-of-stock” warnings are up 172% from ... Read more »

Kerry Katona defends feeding her children takeaways for six months

Kerry Katona defended feeding her children so many takeaways. (PA) Kerry Katona has defended only feeding her children takeaways after she was accused of “child abuse” for not making a ... Read more »

Margaret Atwood sparks anger and disappointment with ‘why can't we say woman' tweet

Acclaimed author Margaret Atwood ignited outrage by sharing an article titled: “Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?” The opinion piece, penned by Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno, explores the the ... Read more »

Gogglebox's Paige Deville says she wishes to never speak to her mum again

Paige Deville and her mother Sally Hayward (Channel 4) Gogglebox’s Paige Deville has dramatically confirmed she is cutting off contact with her mother. Ms Deville and her mother Sally Hayward ... Read more »

Detective who 'boasted about sex with boys' jailed after sting by his own police force

Christopher Richards, 45, boasted about sex with a 14-year-old boy. (SWNS) A detective who boasted about sex with a 14-year-old boy was caught after a sting by his own police ... Read more »

Brian Laundrie's belongings have been found in Florida park

The lawyer for Brian Laundrie’s parents says articles belonging to the missing fugitive have been located in a Florida reserve near his home on Wednesday morning. The discovery was made ... Read more »

Democrats failing to pass the latest voting rights bill will be a 'make-or-break moment' for filibuster reform, according to progressive activists

© AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Virginia Shadron, of Atlanta, holds an anti-filibuster sign with the face of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of R-Ky., on it, during a rally in support ... Read more »

3 reasons there's a labor shortage, according to Mitt Romney

© Provided by Business Insider Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). Liz Lynch/Getty Images Some conservatives said pandemic-era enhanced unemployment benefits kept people from going back to work. But those benefits expired ... Read more »

Fox News host says consumers bear no blame for supply chain issues because they 'have a belief in American excellence'

© John Lamparski/Getty Images Fox News host Dana Perino. John Lamparski/Getty Images Fox News host Dana Perino said it is “absurd” to blame excess demand for the US’s supply chain ... Read more »

Vladimir Putin orders one-week paid shutdown for Russian workers as COVID-19 cases and deaths rise

© Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a one-week shutdown for workers as the country grapples with rising COVID-19 cases and deaths. Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty ... Read more »

White truffles are in short supply due to climate change and expanding wine production, and prices are skyrocketing to as much as $5,000 a pound

© Provided by Business Insider Giorgio Perottino/Getty Images for Ente Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’ Alba White truffle prices are soaring to as much as $4,950, Bloomberg reports. The ... Read more »

Peter Thiel says bitcoin at $60,000 is a sure sign the 'decrepit' political system is about to implode

© Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times Peter Thiel. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times Tech billionaire Peter Thiel said bitcoin’s surge to $60,000 underscores his view that ... Read more »

Bitcoin could soar an additional 38% after topping its record high of $65,000, according to Fairlead's Katie Stockton

© Nurphoto / Getty Images Bitcoin. Nurphoto / Getty Images Bitcoin’s new record high on Wednesday sets the cryptocurrency up for more gains ahead, Fairlead Strategies’ Katie Stockton said. If ... Read more »

Women flocked to the stock market during COVID. They include one who overheard a conversation about Wall Street Bets and another who lost her home in 2008.

© Angela Weiss/Getty Images US politicians often place major bets on Wall Street. Angela Weiss/Getty Images Angela Weiss/Getty Images The number of women investing surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ... Read more »

Scammers targeted 45m people over past three months

Scam graphic – The Telegraph Scammers targeted nearly 45 million people with fraudulent texts and calls over the summer, the telecoms watchdog has found. More than eight in 10 people ... Read more »

Elon Musk wants to sell Tesla 'Giga Beer' in a Cybertruck-inspired bottle

© Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images Tesla CEO Elon Musk reveals “Giga Beer” in a cyber-truck inspired bottle at the Giga Fest in Germany. Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty ... Read more »

Fiona Hill says Trump 'could win again' in 2024 and continues to stage a 'slow-moving coup' after January 6

© Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images Fiona Hill, former top Russia advisor to the White House, provides testimony in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump in Washington, ... Read more »

La nave Orion lista para integrarse en el cohete con el que el hombre regresará a la Luna y viajará a Marte

© Proporcionado por La Tercera Nave Orion para Artemis 1 – NASA La nave Orion de la primera misión del programa Artemisa de la Nasa para el retorno humano a ... Read more »