Anyone who saw Apollo 13 can appreciate that sometimes all the advanced science and engineering utilized to get our brave men and women into space pales in comparison to the ingenuity often required to keep them there safely. Recently, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was alerted to a small air leak in the Zverzda module of the ISS. This area includes sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a bathroom.
A specialist from the Russian Mission Control Center told a cosmonaut to use tea leaves in the microgravity environment to pinpoint the leaks. As the tea leaves were suspended in the environment, they were slowly drawn towards what was revealed to be a small crack in the hull of the module. The crack, which was measured at 0.2 mm in diameter, was found on an ISS wall. Once the crack was located, the crew used adhesive tape made of a temperature-resistant material to cover it, serving as a short-term fix.
Down the road, more durable equipment will be delivered to the ISS to help patch the crack and perform checks to ensure there are no additional leaks.
The NASA equivalent to duct tape is considered a temporary, but safe replacement. The current leak of 0.4 mm of mercury per day is significantly lower than the 0.5 mm/minute that would be needed to register as an emergency.
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