NASA expresses its support to its astronaut that Russian space agency claimed had a breakdown while in space in 2018. The Russian state-owned news outlet, TASS, claimed that NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor tried to destroy Russian equipment to return early to Earth.
The report came out after critics of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos wondered aloud whether it is best for NASA to continue its partnership with them. As previously reported by Science Times, Russia's Nauka module experienced a technical error while docking to the International Space Station when its thrusters fired unexpectedly.
Now, Russia has released claims that have little to no evidence to back them up. On the other hand, the American space agency also expressed its support to its astronaut.
Russia's Claims Against a NASA Astronaut
TASS reported that NASA astronaut Auñón-Chancellor experienced "an acute psychological crisis" because of deep vein thrombosis, and the Russian state-owned news service implied that this led her to intentionally damage a Russian space module to return early to Earth in 2018. The report said that Auñón-Chancellor drilled holes in the wall of the module, which cosmonauts had to repair.
Furthermore, TASS said that the information came from a Roscosmos source and that the camera failed to capture what happened. They also claimed that the Americans refused to perform a polygraph test.
According to Futurism, a 2018 incident did happen in the Russian module of the ISS where authorities found evidence of several attempts at drilling into the walls. In December 2018, two cosmonauts went on a spacewalk to inspect the two small holes.
They offered two possible theories that could explain how the holes got there. First, small pieces of space debris or micro meteors pierced the external wall of the Russian module. Second, a rushed Russian engineer back on Earth tried to cover up their careless work using super glue to patch up the holes.
Despite these explanations, Roscosmos never ruled out sabotage and seems to be using it now to throw criticism to NASA after being criticized by the international community in the Nauka module docking mishap.
NASA Stands by Its Astronaut
According to ARS Technica, NASA officials expressed their support for Auñón-Chancellor within 24 hours after TASS published its report. Kathy Lueders, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, posted on her Twitter account a message that says she believes in the professional conduct of Auñón-Chancellor and does not believe that there is any credibility to any accusations made by the Russian state-owned news service.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson agreed to Lueders' statement and said that they fully support Serena and will stand behind NASA astronauts. NASA released a statement that further exonerated Auñón-Chancellor. As quoted by ARS Technica, it read: "To protect their privacy, the agency will not discuss medical information regarding crew members."
NASA officials knew that these claims were nonsensical, noting that they knew where the US astronauts were when the leak occurred. US officials shared with Russian officials back then that none of their astronauts were near the Soyuz module at that time. Despite explanations, the Russian space agency never ruled out sabotage as the cause of the holes in the module.
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