Russia launches mission to rescue stranded ISS crew after meteoroid strike | International Space Station
Moscow will launch a rescue ship International Space Station next month to bring home three crew members who are basically trapped in orbit after their original capsule was hit by a meteoroid.
The docked Soyuz MS-22 a major leak occurred last monthspraying radiator coolant into space and prompting a few cosmonauts to abort a planned spacewalk.
While Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said the attack posed no direct threat to the space station crew, it was concerned about whether everyone on the orbital outpost could return to Earth in an emergency.
Because the leak resulted in higher cabin temperatures, the MS-22 was deemed unsuitable, leaving only one operational “escape pod” attached to the ISS – a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. There are seven people aboard the space station, but the SpaceX capsule only has four seats.
After deliberations, Roscosmos said it has decided to postpone the planned launch of Soyuz MS-23 in March to February 20 so that it can be used to return Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and American astronaut Francisco Rubio to spacecraft. transport earth.
If a “particularly critical” situation were to arise on the ISS in the weeks before, the possibility of using the damaged Soyuz MS-22 to rescue the crew would be considered, Roscosmos said.
MS-23 was initially planned to take on three crew members, but will sail empty as a rescue vessel. The head of the Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, did not say when Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio would return to Earth in the backup Soyuz.
The damaged MS-22 will return without a crew once the replacement arrives, Roscosmos added.
Micrometeoroids, naturally occurring pieces of rock or metal that can be as small as a grain of sand, pose a significant threat to human spaceflight. They orbit the Earth at about 17,000 mph (27,400 kph) — much faster than the speed of a bullet.
Roscosmos said the diameter of the micrometeoroid that hit the docked Soyuz was small, leaving a hole in the capsule just 1mm in diameter. It caused significant damage, with NASA TV images with white particles resembling snowflakes pouring from the back.
Human-made “space junk” can also damage equipment. 2021, Russia has blown up one of its own satellites in a missile test that created clouds of humming shrapnel.
Space travel has remained a rare area of cooperation between Moscow and Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The ISS was launched in phases starting in 1998 at a time of increased cooperation between the US and Russia, nearly a decade after the end of the Cold War. The aging space station is destined to be deorbited by 2031with a planned descent to a remote point in the Pacific Ocean.
Meanwhile, a new space race is emerging between the US and China. In 2021, the Beijing space program established its first manned space station in orbit. The 70-ton Tiangong, meaning ‘heavenly palace’, is expected to be operational for at least 10 years.
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