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NASA Denies Accusation that Astronaut Suffered Mental Breakdown, Drilled Hole in Soyuz

Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor loading experiment modules into an MVP. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has denied a claim in a Russian publication that one of its astronauts, Serena Maria Auñón-Chancellor, might have suffered a mental breakdown while aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and drilled a hole in a Soyuz spacecraft in order to get back to Earth earlier than planned.

“NASA astronauts, including Serena Aunon-Chancellor, are extremely well-respected, serve their country and make invaluable contributions to the agency. We stand behind Serena and her professional conduct. We do not believe there is any credibility to these accusations,” tweeted Kathy Lueders, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration.

A story published by the state news agency TASS claimed that Auñón-Chancellor could have drilled a hole in the orbital module of the Soyuz MS-09 transport in 2018. The article said she could have suffered a mental breakdown after being diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot that could become life threatening if not treated properly.

Below is a Google Translate excerpt from the original Russian language story:

“And this could provoke an acute psychological crisis,” which could lead to attempts in various ways to speed up her return to the planet, my anonymous interlocutor believes. Secondly, for some reason incomprehensible to Roscosmos, the video camera at the junction of the Russian and American segments did not work at that time. Thirdly, the Americans refused to pass the polygraph, unlike the Russian cosmonauts. Fourthly, the Russian Federation did not get the opportunity to examine the tools and drills that are on the ISS for the presence of the remains of metal shavings from the hull of the household compartment of our ship.

Finally, fifth: of the eight holes, only one was through – the rest were drilled as if with bounces of the drill, which rather speaks of drilling precisely in zero gravity conditions without the necessary support. One hole was generally made in the frame (the transverse rib of the ship’s hull), that is, drilled by someone who had not been trained in the construction of the Soyuz MS spacecraft.

ISS crew members were able to seal the mysterious hole, which did not pose a threat to the space station and its occupants. The hole was in the Soyuz spacecraft’s orbital module, which is separate from the crew module that cosmonauts and astronauts use to return to Earth.

Roscosmos has not released the results of its investigation into the strange incident.

The accusation was made in the middle of a long article rebutting American complaints about the quality of Russia’s space program. The most recent incident occurred when the newly arrived Nauka module spun the space 540 degrees throough unplanned firing of its thrusters.

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