International Space Station continues to show its age as Cosmonauts find “Superficial” cracks on Zarya module

Cosmonauts aboard the ISS have discovered cracks on the space station’s oldest module, Zarya.

New cracks have been discovered on the International Space Station’s Zarya module. Vladimir Solovyov, Russia’s space station flight director revealed the news on Monday to Russian state media outlet RIA. According to a report published in Reuters, Solovyov told RIA that “Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module.”  He added: “This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.” It remains unclear how damaging these cracks are, and how they were created.

Similar breaches have been found on the ISS before, including the 2-millimeter hole discovered in 2018 on a docked Soyuz spacecraft. The hole was later deemed to be the result of a drill, and thus man-made. Russian news agency TASS published a report in August promoting allegations that a US astronaut had purposefully sabotaged the Soyuz vehicle while in space. TASS claimed that a high-ranking official at Roscosmos had provided them with this information.

Zarya launch on a Proton rocket back in 1998.

The Russian accusations stated that Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor had a mental breakdown while on the station, and in an effort to return to Earth ahead of schedule decided to create a leak on the space station. While perhaps exciting, there is no evidence to back up this story, and both NASA’s human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders and Administrator Bill Nelson have put forth statements condemning the allegations.

As the ISS continues to age, breaches will undoubtedly become more common, and space station participants will be forced to reassess their commitment to the project. Russia has already stated that they will likely remain until 2024, with plans to build their own space station in the future. 

The United States has plans to create a smaller space station in orbit around the Moon for the Artemis Program, called the Lunar Gateway, which would begin construction around 2024 as well.

Render of the United States’ planned Lunar Gateway space station Credit: NASA

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