A Space Odyssey: A scorned lover, a diaper, and a drill

Houston, We Have A Problem

In June 2018, a crew of six was on board the International Space Station (ISS) for a 7 month mission.  Like all space missions, it was a culmination of years of preparations, tests, simulations, and investment of hundreds of billions of dollars and dedication of thousands of people.

Less than 3 months in to the space mission, on August 30, 2018, the ISS suddenly began to lose air pressure causing the crew to scramble. Ground control calculated that there would be a complete loss of air on ISS within 18 days.  Finding the source of the air leak was akin to finding a needle in a hay stack, and if not managed quickly, it would force an emergency evacuation of the crew.

The Russian crew found the leak and against the recommendation of the American crew, undertook a risky but effective way to seal it.  The leak came from holes drilled in to the hull of the Russian habitation module’s toilet area, and was concealed by a cloth cover.

An official cited by Russian press stated that the person responsible for the holes clearly lacked knowledge of the Soyuz capsule’s structure and made eight attempts to drill holes, some in strange locations, with “a wavering hand” operating the drill, before finally getting one hole all the way through. They cite evidence that the holes were deliberately drilled from inside the craft and while it was in the weightless environment.

After an extensive investigation by the Roscosmos state space agency, the matter has been referred for criminal charges.  Their official statement reads:

“All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation compartment of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft have been handed over to law enforcement agencies.”

Officially few details have been released about the report; however, details of the investigation have been emerging through Russian news media.

The findings and allegations are shocking.

Russian news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS reported that NASA’s female astronaut Serena Maria Auñón-Chancellor drilled the holes “due to suffering [a psychological episode] after a failed romantic relationship with one of the crew members.”

TASS and Izvestia, citing a high ranking official source, reported that Auñón-Chancellor took drastic action to ‘speed up her return to Earth’.

Reports allege that the American crew commander, Andrew Fustel, submitted an emergency request to NASA to have Auñón-Chancellor evacuated from ISS due to a medical condition.  NASA allegedly refused the request.  A return from ISS requires three crew members.  In order to bring Auñón-Chancellor back to earth early NASA would have to pay up to $85 million dollars to have Russia launch another Soyuz rocket and crew to pick her up.  NASA was not inclined to do so. 

The only other way Aunon-Chancellor could be flown back to earth early was if there was an emergency on the space station requiring all crew members to be evacuated. 

Unconfirmed reports claim that during this time, the toilet on the American side of ISS broke down, forcing the American crew to employ diapers.  Auñón-Chancellor allegedly took issue with this, complained, and requested special accommodations to use the Russian crew’s habitation module toilet.  Her request was allegedly denied. 

NASA has not confirmed nor denied the broken toilet incident that may have set the subsequent events in motion.

According to Russian sources, while the Russian crew was performing scheduled maintenance on ISS,  Auñón-Chancellor went to their bathroom and drilled the holes in retaliation and as a means to force an emergency return back to earth without  NASA having to pay the Russians $85 million dollars.

There was a reasonable chance the drilled hole would not be located by the crew in time.  The Russians would have to use the same habitation module to return the crew back to earth. The drilled holes in the module would have never been discovered on earth because the module would be discarded and burned up in earth’s atmosphere during reentry.

Aside from the claims of Auñón-Chancellor’s psychotic behavior, her alleged actions suggest that it was not entirely an insane plan by a crazy person, but rather a well calculated and deliberate crime.

The Russian media has cited claims of NASA’s stonewalling of Roscosmos’ investigation.  A video recording on board the space station which monitors the common area between American and Russian capsules was “mysteriously” not made available. NASA also refused to allow Russians to examine the drills on board ISS to test them for metal shavings.  Upon return to earth, both Russian crew members submitted to polygraph tests while NASA refused to conduct or allow a polygraph test on Serena Marie Auñón-Chancellor.  NASA also refused to provide her psychological and medical evaluation results.

The allegations and NASA’s response raises legitimate questions.  This is not the first time female NASA astronauts have been accused of serious misconduct.

In 2019, NASA astronaut Anne McClain was accused of committing crimes from space against her ex-wife during their bitter divorce and child custody battle.  The drama involved McClain’s attempt to gain custody of her ex-wife’s biological son who was born to the woman prior to her meeting McClain.  The personal and legal drama raised accusations while McClain was on NASA’s mission on ISS.  McClain was accused of using ISS computers in space to stalk and snoop on her ex-wife’s bank accounts and transactions.  McClain denied any wrongdoing and was not charged with any crimes, nor reprimanded by NASA.

In 2007, NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak packed a drilling hammer, an 8-inch buck knife, a disc of female bondage instructions, a map of her target’s neighborhood, gloves, a wig, BB gun, pepper spray, four feet of rubber tubing, duct tape, and other items in to her husband’s car.  She then allegedly used two diapers in order to avoid bathroom breaks as she drove non-stop for 900 miles from Texas to Florida in order to execute an attack on her astronaut ex-lover’s new girlfriend.  The assault took place at the Orlando airport, after Nowak allegedly stalked her victim for two months. Novak was arrested and pleaded guilty to several felonies.

After that widely publicized Novak incident, NASA instituted psychological testing.  

But in 2018, regarding questions of Aunon-Chancellor’s condition on ISS and the hole drilling incident, NASA’s official pubic statement was: “To protect their privacy, the agency will not discuss medical information regarding crew members.”’ 

One Russian blogger writing about Auñón-Chancellor allegations wrote that Russians rarely send women in to space because women tend to fail psychological stress tests required for such jobs.

Some may immediately label such statements, and even such tests, as anti-woman, however, that comment raises the question of whether NASA is hiring people based on merits and their abilities to do the required jobs, rather than based on positive discrimination.

The question organizations such as NASA, US Department of Defense,  and all law enforcement agencies have to address is whether they are hiring the best possible people for the job.

The evidence seems to be, that they are not.  NASA is more interested in publicizing a “Historic All Women Spacewalk”, while its astronauts depend on Russians and their all male crews to fly them to and from ISS on Russian built rockets.

America must overcome identity politics and employ only the best people for the job based on merits rather than on political diversity quotas of sex, race, or gender.

If America fails to change its course and hire the absolute best men and women for the job, then psychologically unstable astronauts drilling holes in a $150 billion space station will be the least of our problems.

© Vladek Filler

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