Russia confirms rescue of stranded cosmonauts with replacement mission: ScienceAlert

Russia confirms rescue of stranded cosmonauts with replacement mission: ScienceAlert

Russia confirms rescue of stranded cosmonauts with replacement mission: ScienceAlert

Russia announced Wednesday that it will send an empty spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) next month to bring home three astronauts whose planned return vehicle was damaged by the impact of a tiny meteoroid.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency made the announcement after examining the flight capability of the Soyuz MS-22 crew capsule docked to the ISS that leaked radiator coolant in December.

Roscosmos and NASA officials told a joint press briefing that an uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft, MS-23, would be sent to the ISS on February 20 to bring Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.

“We don’t call it a rescue Soyuz,” said Joel Montalbano, ISS program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “I call it a replacement Soyuz.

“Right now, the crew is safe aboard the space station.”

The MS-22 carried Petelin, Prokopyev and Rubio to the ISS in September after taking off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

They were due to return home in the same spacecraft in March, but their stay on the ISS will now be extended for several more months.

“I might have to find some other ice cream to reward them,” joked Montalbano.

The MS-22 began leaking coolant on December 14 – shortly before Russian cosmonauts began a spacewalk – after being hit by what US and Russian space officials believe be a tiny space rock.

Montalbano said “everything points to a micrometeoroid” and not space debris or a technical problem.

Executive Director of Human Spaceflight Programs at Roscosmos, Sergei Krikalev, said “the current theory is that this damage was caused by a small particle about a millimeter in diameter.”

MS-23 was to carry Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub and Loral O’Hara of NASA to the ISS on March 16.

SpaceX Crew Dragon

The decision was made to use the MS-23 to bring the current crew home, Krikalev said, due to concerns about potential high temperatures in the damaged MS-22 during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

He said it could still potentially be used “in an emergency”.

Another emergency scenario is to use the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule which is currently docked with the ISS after ferrying four astronauts to the space station in October for a six-month mission.

Montalbano said discussions are ongoing with SpaceX about using the Crew Dragon capsule to bring other astronauts home to the ISS.

“We could safely secure crew members in the area where cargo normally returns to the Dragon,” Montalbano said.

“This is all just an emergency, only if we have to evacuate the ISS,” the NASA official stressed. “It’s not the nominal plan or anything like that.”

Krikalev said an unmanned MS-22 would return to Earth, likely in March, after the replacement vehicle arrives.

It would bring back equipment and experiments that aren’t “temperature sensitive,” he said.

When the original MS-23 crew will arrive at the ISS is still being worked out, Montalbano added.

Space has remained a rare venue for cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia.

The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of increased cooperation between the United States and Russia after the Cold War “space race”.

Russia has used the aging but reliable Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts into space since the 1960s.

© Agence France-Presse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *