A month after the International Space Station suffered a major mishap, the ageing outpost is indicating clues of degradation sooner than expected. Russian cosmonauts have discovered cracks in one of the segments of this flying laboratory, which could widen in the few coming months.
Officials had already hinted that most of the equipment on space station is beginning to age and warned that there could be an “avalanche of broken equipment after 2025.”
Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency, “Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module. This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time..”
The Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS is looking into other issues that might have slithered into the space station over time. Particularly following the mishap that happened on July 30. Russia’s space agency has also reported last month, a drop in pressure in the Zvezda service module, it provides living quarters for crew members on the ISS, that was caused by an air leak.
The Space Station, a scientific laboratory hovering over 200 miles above Earth is a joint project between the US, Europe and Russia and holds two modules that house both US astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. The station has been a source of research and experiments in microgravity for over two decades.
While the ISS attains its operational age, Nasa has been pushing for extending its services till 2030, which depends mostly on continuous cooperation from Moscow. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has said it will remain part of the ISS until 2024 and that it is open to extending its participation beyond then.
Astronauts will soon conduct a series of spacewalks to boost the power capacity on the station whose solar panels have reached their operational life. The space station has remained in service for over two decades now and has started showing signs of weathering.
Alternative found by China:
China recently launched its first crewed mission to its space station to ready the station. As reports of damage onboard the station, China is ready to offer an alternative to the flying laboratory with its Tiangong space station which is under construction in microgravity.
Chinese astronauts are working to prepare the space station for future missions and Beijing is coordinating with Moscow already on a lunar base to be established on the Moon.
These reports of damage on the ISS will be seen as a sign of opportunity by Beijing which has already invited global collaboration on its under-construction laboratory in space.