Russia will rescue ISS crew following meteoroid attack. Since a meteoroid destroyed their initial capsule, Moscow plans to send a rescue ship to the International Space Station next month to bring home the three crew members currently stuck in orbit.
The Soyuz MS-22 attached to the International Space Station sprung a massive leak last month, spilling radiator coolant into space and forcing two cosmonauts to call off their planned spacewalk.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos reported that the impact posed no immediate danger to the station’s staff. Still, it raised questions about whether the entire station’s inhabitants could return to Earth in an emergency.
The MS-22 was declared unsafe due to the increased cabin temperatures caused by the leak, and the SpaceX Crew Dragon was left as the only operable “escape pod” attached to the ISS. However, the SpaceX spacecraft can accommodate only four passengers, whereas seven people live aboard the space station.
So that the Soyuz MS-23 can return to Earth with the three astronauts aboard—Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, as well as American astronaut Francisco Rubio—Roscosmos announced on 20 February that it would be launching the spacecraft one month earlier than initially scheduled in March.
Roscosmos has stated that the damaged Soyuz MS-22 may be used to rescue the ISS crew if a “dire” situation occurred in the prior weeks.
The MS-23, which was supposed to carry three people, will set off without any of its crew to save lives. Roscosmos director Yuri Borisov did not provide a timetable for the return of Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio in the backup Soyuz.
Once its replacement arrives, the damaged MS-22 will return without a crew, Roscosmos said.
Naturally occurring bits of rock or metal, called micrometeoroids, can be as small as a grain of sand and constitute a severe threat to human spaceflight. Around 17,000 mph (27,400 km/h), they speed around the planet at a rate that is far quicker than the speed of a bullet.
According to Roscosmos, the micrometeoroid that damaged the Soyuz capsule was only 1 millimeter in diameter. Images broadcast on Nasa TV showed snowflake-like white particles erupting from the back, indicating severe damage.
“Space junk,” or debris in orbit created by humans, can also harm sensitive machinery. In 2021, Russia conducted a missile test, destroying one of its satellites and creating a shower of speeding debris.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, a collaboration between Moscow and Washington has been limited to a handful of areas, space being one of them.
The International Space Station (ISS) was gradually unveiled beginning in 1998, during a period of enhanced cooperation between the United States and Russia about a decade after the cold war’s end. In 2031, the aging space station will be “de-orbited,” or intentionally crashed, into an undisclosed location in the Pacific.
The United States and China are currently engaged in a new space competition. Beijing’s space program launched its first crewed space station into Earth orbit in 2021. The Tiangong, whose name translates to “heavenly palace,” weighs in at 70 tonnes and has a projected lifespan of at least ten years.