Now, with the Soyuz nearing its reentry date, Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS will venture out into space to get a better look at the damage from the outside.
"Someone messed up and then got scared and sealed up the hole", a source speculated, but then the sealant "dried up and fell off" when the Soyuz reached the ISS. This part of the capsule will be jettisoned as usual before atmospheric re-entry, and so poses no risk for descent.
The capsule leak caused a flap between the USA and Russian space agencies, following its discovery at the end of August. It took almost four hours for them to cross the approximately 100 feet (30 meters) to get to the capsule. As they cut into the spacecraft, small fragments of the material floated away and formed a cloud of debris.
The hole appeared as a black mark or spot on the exposed metal skin of the Soyuz spacecraft.
"It was very hard. but we were able to get it done", one of the spacewalkers said.
The two Russians performed the space walk on December 11, as part of an effort by Roskosmos to pinpoint the cause of the hole, which was found in August in the docked Soyuz capsule and strained relations between the Russian and US space agencies.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in October that an investigation had ruled out a manufacturing error. Of course, NASA doesn't really have much choice in this regard, considering Russian Federation is now the space agency's only crewed launch partner until SpaceX and Boeing get their acts together. The space station's commander at the time flatly denied any wrongdoing by himself or his crew.
Rogozin has since backpedaled on his statement, blaming the media for twisting his words.
And because this particular module of the capsule will split off and burn up on re-entry back to Earth, they wanted to analyse their fix job from the outside and scrape off some samples of the epoxy to return to Earth and study.
The Soyuz is scheduled to depart the orbiting lab on December 19, USA time, with Prokopyev, American Serena Aunon-Chancellor and German Alexander Gerst, the station's current skipper.
Remaining aboard the space outpost for the next six months will be an American, Russian and Canadian who arrived last week.
The pair then returned back inside the space station after determining that they wouldn't need to cover their handywork with a thermal blanket.