Space station crew on spacewalk to inspect mysterious hole

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He said recently that an official Russian probe is ongoing and crew members who are set to return to Earth on December 20 would bring back samples collected during Tuesday's spacewalk.

Expedition 57 flight engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos conducted the 7-hour and 45-minute spacewalk.

"That is exactly the hole we've been looking for, guys", radioed Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

But as they've investigated the hole in the Soyuz capsule, astronauts can't figure out what created it.

Sources quoted in Izvestia newspaper said that if sealant is found on the hull during the space walk then the hole was probably caused when the spacecraft was on the ground.

For the cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev, it was a test of nerves.

Rogozin added that Roscosmos would discuss the findings from the investigation with NASA and other space station partners.

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Russian officials later denied those reports.

"There's nothing, that's the problem", Kononenko said ahead of the outing.

The pair will take samples of any residue found on the hull of the capsule - which is used to transport astronauts and cosmonauts to and from the ISS - and take photos of the area for further investigation before placing a thermal blanket over it.

The Soyuz spacecraft will be used to return astronauts Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor to Earth in eight days.

The spacewalk was the fourth for Kononenko and the second for Prokopyev.

Head of Russia's State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin stated in early October that a commission investigating the appearance of the hole ruled out a manufacturing flaw as the cause of the incident. While not an immediate risk, they investigated and found a hole on the inside of the Soyuz habitation module, which is now docked at the space station.

Remaining aboard the 250-mile-high (400-kilometer-high) outpost for the next six months will be an American, Russian and Canadian who arrived last week. The extravehicular activity (EVA) was the 213th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in the 20-year history of the space station.

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