Last week, the Russian state-run TASS news agency spread a claim that a U.S. NASA astronaut drilled a hole in the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018 in order to force an early return home. NASA has since pushed back on the Russian claims, calling them “not credible,” and adding that it stands behind its astronaut.
In an Aug. 12, article, TASS wrote — based on the account of a high-ranking Russian space official who agreed to comment on them on condition of anonymity — that NASA astronaut Serena Auñon-Chancellor had developed a case of thrombosis while aboard the ISS and her having had to treat herself for a related blood clot may have set off a psychological episode that led her to sabotage the space station.
Discussing her reported blood clot, TASS wrote the anonymous Russian official said “this could provoke an acute psychological crisis” that he believes could have lead to an attempt to “speed up her return to the planet.”
TASS noted a video camera at the junction of the Russian and American segments stopped working at that time, U.S. astronauts refused to take a polygraph and that the Russian Federation did not get the chance to examine various tools and drills aboard the ISS to see if they had any metal shavings from the hull of the space station. The Russian news outlet also wrote, “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.”
The day after the TASS news report, Space.com reported NASA’s human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders said, “Serena is an extremely well-respected crew member who has served her country and made invaluable contributions to the agency and I stand behind Serena — we stand behind Serena and her professional conduct and I did not find this accusation credible.”
Lueders also tweeted, “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.”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted, “I whole heartedly agree with Kathy’s statement. I fully support Serena and I will always stand behind our astronauts.”