“The story usually opens with ‘tsssss…’, which is the sound of air rushing out of the capsule into the vacuum of space as astronauts feel a shift in pressure in their ears and wait for their brains to burst,” explained Misha Popov of Netflix’s fictitious series Away’s story of Spektr. On June 25, 1997, the Russian Mir space station’s Spektr module was punctured when it collided with the Progress M-34 resupply spacecraft. The catastrophe occurred when Russian astronaut Vasily Tsibliev was managing Progress through remote control from inside Mir, and is regarded by some to be the greatest collision in the history of space flight (but here are four more space disasters for your nightmare fuel).
Unfortunately, because to the poor sights, he was unable to judge the rate at which Progress was moving, only understanding it was moving far too quickly when it was too late. The 7-ton Progress slammed into Mir, spinning it around and creating a hole in its side, which astrophysicist and NASA astronaut Michael Foale noticed when his ears popped and he heard a whistling sound coming from the damaged module.
In a subsequent interview, he added, “This is not something you see in movies where it all gets solved instantaneously by some brainy gentleman.” “It probably took six hours to fix it.” They were finally able to stop Mir’s uncontrollable spinning by employing jets, but they were left with a hole.
WHEN A SPACECRAFT GETS A HOLE IN IT, WHAT HAPPENS? Consider taking a flight with a package of crisps, and when reaching the greatest height, looking down to discover your formerly crushed packet has expanded. This is because the pressure outside the vacuum-sealed packet is lower than it is at ground level, so there is less resistance against the packet, allowing it to take up more space as air molecules continue to bounce about inside it.
The same may be said for a spaceship when it ascends out of the atmosphere and into space’s vacuum. Although there is no pressure applied by air molecules here, the pressure within a spaceship is kept at a level similar to that seen on Earth’s surface, with many air molecules bouncing around inside as well. This implies that if a leak appears in the form of a puncture, air molecules will seep out as they travel through the hole and into space’s vacuum – the “tsss” sound you hear. What about bursting brains? Not so much, but it was nevertheless terrifying for Foale and his colleagues on board the Spektr.
“For one or two seconds, it was terrifying,” he told the BBC, ”My initial fear was that we’d perish instantaneously since the air was pouring out so quickly that we couldn’t control it.” “If we didn’t do anything, we’d start to pass out in 23 minutes,” he remarked. Fortunately, the leak was gradual enough for Mir’s crew to put a hatch cover on the module and seal it up, preventing the breach from depressurizing the entire station. This approach had its own set of issues with the power cables that feed Mir’s solar panels, so the astronauts had to do an internal spacewalk inside Spektr while wearing space suits to restore the cables’ functionality.
After the accident, Foale remarked, “Quite a bit of [equipment] was left in that module, along with my personal things.” “Since then, I’ve managed to locate a toothbrush, toothpaste, some clothing, and even a pair of running shoes, so my life is returning to normal.” If they hadn’t been able to seal off the module, Mir’s whole interior would have depressurized until it matched the conditions of outer space, which begs the issue.