International Space Station Still Springing Leaks And In Major Trouble?

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

international space station NASA

Normally, life aboard the International Space Station bears very little resemblance to the world of Star Trek: after all, a real space station is inevitably going to be very different from the fictional starship Enterprise. However, the ISS is now facing an issue that might sound very familiar to any Next Generation fans who watched Geordi LaForge roll underneath the Engineering department’s closing doors.

The International Space Station has been having a rough year, and now it’s sprung another leak that was noticed during a live stream.

As reported by ScienceAlert, the station has sprung its third coolant leak of the year, and even though the crew is safe, many can’t help but wonder just how secure the International Space Station is.

News that the International Space Station might be facing trouble began spreading yesterday around 1:30 pm Eastern Time. That is when NASA’s live feed of the ISS revealed flakes of what appeared to be frozen coolant escaping into space. Soon afterward, radio discussions between the ISS astronauts and US mission control confirmed details of the coolant leak. 

NASA has confirmed that everyone onboard the International Space Station is safe.

According to the Russian space agency Roscosmos, “The Nauka module of the Russian segment of the ISS has suffered a coolant leak from the external (backup) radiator circuit, which was delivered to the station in 2012.” In case you were wondering, “Nauka” translates to science, and the module in question “is also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module-Upgrade (MLM), launched in 2021.” Fortunately, the space agency had a positive addendum to the otherwise scary news: “Nothing is threatening the crew and the station.”

international space station (1)
The International Space Station

After taking a closer look at what was happening aboard the International Space Station, NASA confirmed the MLM leak and agreed with the conclusion that everyone was safe: “the crew aboard (the) station was never in any danger,” they reported.

While the crew needs to “close the shutters on US segment windows as a precaution against contamination,” NASA confirmed that “The primary radiator on Nauka is working normally, providing full cooling to the module with no impacts to the crew or to space station operations.”

The reason why the International Space Station is leaking every few months is currently unknown, but there are theories, ranging from poor construction to degrading equipment.

The crew of the International Space Station may be safe for now, but some experts believe this repeated pattern of coolant leaks (again, this is the third this year alone) may be a strong sign of future dangers. Space analyst Jonathan McDowell said of the three leaks that “one is whatever, two is a coincidence, three is something systematic.”

He claimed the repeated problem could be the fault of a subcontractor or, more likely in his estimation, due to the “degrading reliability of Russian space system,” a conclusion that seems more logical in light of “their failed Moon probe in August.”

Here on the ground, we can only speculate about what is causing the International Space Station’s coolant leaks. Still, we know one thing for certain: we wish everyone aboard safe travels as they help humanity straddle the heavens.

As we dream of colonizing Mars and descending even deeper into the cosmos, it’s important to remember and honor those who first showed us it was possible to live among the stars. Thanks to them, exploring “strange new worlds” seems a bit likelier each day.