Astronauts find hole in the International Space Station, plug it with thumb

There's a hole in my spaceship, dear NASA, a hole.

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
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Alexander Gerst thumbs
European Space Agency

You think you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today? Spare a thought for the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

On Thursday morning, they woke up to the news that the station was slowly leaking air. Flight controllers had been monitoring the small drop in pressure overnight, deciding to let the crew sleep as the hole presented no danger.

The astronauts, commander Drew Feustel, flight engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Alexander Gerst, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev eventually located the source of the leak: The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. The spacecraft was attached to the Russian side of the station, and originally ferried the crew of Expedition 56 to the station back in June.

And while the hole posed no threat to the safety of the crew -- it still had to be found and fixed.

Upon finding the source of the leak, a 2-millimeter (0.08-inch) hole in the orbital compartment of the Soyuz MS-09, astronaut Alexander Gerst from the European Space Agency plugged it with his thumb.

However, NASA ground control realized that wasn't exactly ideal, according to the Telegraph, explaining that a thumb isn't "the best remedy" for a hole in one of the most expensive, important pieces of space infrastructure.

Former ISS commander, Chris Hadfield, posted an image of a hole -- not the hole -- to Twitter Thursday.

As he explains, the thumb was only a temporary fix, with a short-term solution of epoxy and Kapton tape (a durable tape often used in space) sealing the hole while a long-term repair option was sought.

All systems have now been stabilized and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will commission analysis to determine the exact cause of the station's tiny wound.

Gerst's actions make one thing abundantly clear: If there's a hole in your spaceship, a good rule of thumb when fixing it is to... well, use your thumb.

See one astronaut's wild pictures from space

See all photos

Update Aug 31, 5:30 a.m.: Clarified Commander Hadfield's hole tweet

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