The problem was first detected by mission control Wednesday night as a reduction of pressure in the station, but it was small enough that the crew was allowed to sleep all night, NASA reported. It was traced to a hole about 2 millimeters (less than one-tenth of an inch) across in the most recent Soyuz capsule docked at the space station.
The leak was discovered at around 7 p.m., (EDT) Wednesday, by flight controllers in Houston and Moscow.
Thursday morning, the crew taped over the hole, slowing the leak.
However, the amount of air being lost continues to fluctuate, and if the hole is not entirely patched in the next few days, some crewmembers may need to depart the station and return to Earth earlier than planned.
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The Russian crew was going to apply an epoxy to the hole and seal it; however, Moscow officials eventually agreed to hold off and use a temporary patch, giving the temporary patch one hour before applying the sealant. Additional updates will be posted on NASA's International Space Station blog as more information becomes available, NASA spokesperson Dan Huot told Space.com in an email. Feustel commands the crew. NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor are also on the space station, along with Alexander Gerst of ESA and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.
Because the pressure loss was "very small", flight controllers determined that the astronauts and cosmonauts "are in no danger", officials with the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a separate statement.
The space station, which has been continuously occupied since November 2000, has an internal pressurized volume equal that of a Boeing 747, according to NASA.