Something doesn't add up.
In a matter of months, two Russian spacecraft docked to the International Space Station experienced mysterious leaks.
In December, a docked Soyuz crew capsule dubbed MS-22 sprayed liquid from a severed coolant line into space after what officials presumed to be a hit by a micrometeoroid. Then earlier this month, a separate spacecraft dubbed Progress MS-21, also docked to the station, experienced a similar leak.
Now, following just over a week of investigations, Russia's space corporation has concluded that the second leak was caused by an "external impact," Ars Technica reports, and not by a manufacturing defect.
But having two separate spacecraft be damaged externally — and very close to their heat radiators to boot — seems like a pretty big coincidence, as Ars argues, suggesting there may be more to the story.
What Are the Chances
In a Tuesday update, Roscosmos officials found that the "cargo ship experienced an external impact. This conclusion was made based on photos that revealed changes on the exterior of the vehicle."
An image shared by the officials shows the impact site and damage to the Progress cargo spacecraft, a small hole surrounded by brown stains. A different photo shows the damage the Soyuz MS-22 capsule sustained back in December, a strikingly different-looking impact area.
Considering how small the areas are, it sure sounds like a massive coincidence that two separate spacecraft would experience very similar "external impacts" and damage to their cooling systems within a matter of just two months.
Is Russia looking for an excuse to leave the International Space Station for good? Was there more at play, or did two micrometeorites really just happen to strike two spacecraft — which are dwarfed by the much larger station they are docked to — around the same time?
At this point, we have far more questions than answers.
Fortunately, while the crew of astronauts who were meant to travel back to Earth on board the Soyuz MS-22 was temporarily stuck in space, they'll be picked up by a replacement capsule called MS-23 that plans to launch later this week.
READ MORE: Russia claims an “external impact” damaged its Progress spacecraft [Ars Technica]
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