Russia’s space program just threw a NASA astronaut under the bus

 Image of the hole in Soyuz MS-09 vehicle docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Enlarge / Image of the hole in Soyuz MS-09 vehicle docked to the International Space Station in 2018. (credit: NASA TV)

Russia’s state-owned news service, TASS, has published an extraordinarily defamatory article about NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. The publication claims that Auñón-Chancellor had an emotional breakdown in space, then damaged a Russian spacecraft in order to return early. This, of course, is a complete fabrication.

The context for the article is the recent, near-disastrous docking of the Russian Nauka science module with the International Space Station. The TASS article attempts to rebut criticism in US publications (including Ars Technica) that covered the incident and raised questions about the future of the Roscosmos-NASA partnership in space.

One of a dozen rebuttals in the TASS article concerns a 2018 incident—a 2 mm breach in the orbital module of the Soyuz MS-09 vehicle docked with the International Space Station. Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, and NASA’s Auñón-Chancellor had flown to the station inside this Soyuz in June. The leak was discovered in late August.

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