The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has threatened to file charges against a NASA astronaut for allegedly drilling a two-millimeter hole in a Soyuz MS-09 vehicle docked with the International Space Station in 2018.
Serena Auñón-Chancellor, an ISS crew member at the time of the incident, was named as the perpetrator in the agency's latest probe into what it believes was a sabotage.
The investigation's findings have been handed to law enforcement officials, according to the Russian publication RIA Novosti.
"All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials," Roscosmos said.
The findings of such an investigation are given to law enforcement officials in Russia, who then decide whether or not to open a criminal case, which is similar to issuing an indictment. In contrast to the U.S., Russia lacks a grand jury system, in which investigators pass over their findings to prosecutors, who determine whether or not to bring charges.
Despite the fact that no astronauts or cosmonauts were injured, the August 2018 incident was embarrassing for Russian space officials. A 2 mm break in the orbital module of the Soyuz MS-09 vehicle connected with the ISS was detected at the time.
Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, and NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor had flown to the station inside this Soyuz in June.
The small hole would have depressurized the station in about two weeks if it had gone unnoticed. However, cosmonauts were able to use epoxy to seal the hole, and the Soyuz spacecraft safely returned Prokopyev, Gerst, and Auón-Chancellor to Earth at the end of their six-month mission.
According to the RIA Novosti article, Russian media reports claim that the hole was drilled by Auñón-Chancellor, who was a member of the ISS crew at the time of the incident. Russia's TASS news agency said she may have bored the hole out of a "desire to return to Earth because of a blood clot or a fight with her onboard the International Space Station," according to the country's Izvestia newspaper.
The chance that NASA astronauts were involved in the pressure leak is non-existent, according to NASA. A report by Ars Technica said NASA knew where all of its astronauts were before the leak and when it started. At the time of the incident, none of the U.S. astronauts aboard the ISS were near the Russian compartment where the Soyuz was docked when it began leaking air.
When Roscosmos launched its investigation in 2018, the U.S. provided this information with Russia.
"These attacks are false and lack any credibility," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told the outlet.
"I fully support Serena and stand behind all of our astronauts."