Three months before their scheduled launch to the International Space Station and a week after a small depressurization event occurred in the orbiting laboratory, a trio of astronauts scheduled to leave Earth in December expressed their confidence in the safety of the spacecraft involved in their journey.
The incident was traced to a 2-millimeter (0.08 inches) hole in the Soyuz capsule that ferried three astronauts to the station in June and will remain docked until their departure in December. According to NASA statements, the astronauts were never at risk, and the hole will not affect the crew's return to Earth since it is in a module that burns up during re-entry.
"To us first, what that means is a wakeup call: all this training we're going through, it's not a joke, it can actually come to be useful," rookie astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency said during a news conference. "It makes you want to study even harder and train harder to be able to respond to any problem like that." [Latest: Hole That Caused Leak in Russian Spacecraft Possibly Traced to Assembly or Testing: Report]
Two Russian cosmonauts patched the leak on Aug. 30; since then, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has opened investigations into how the leak occurred.
Understandably, Saint-Jacques was curious as to what that investigation would find. "It's still a bit of a mystery, like a detective job, that's one question," he said. "The more important question is making sure the spacecraft is OK."
Early reports from Russia suggest that human error on the ground in the run-up to launch may be to blame.
Of course, in addition to investigating the leak incident, Roscosmos is also ensuring just that, including double-checking Soyuz capsules currently being prepared for launch. "I'm sure that specialists will find out what went wrong and I'm positive this is as I said, just an exception," cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, who will be taking his fourth trip to space, said during the news conference through a translator.
Saint-Jacques, McClain and Kononenko are scheduled to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 20 for a six-month stay at the International Space Station.
Editor's note: This article has been corrected to clarify that a pair of astronauts will launch before Saint-Jacques, McClain and Kononenko do.