Everything in the world of space travel is extreme, from the power needed to launch rockets to – yes, that too – the delays when things go wrong. Three current residents of the International Space Station are now to stay there for six more months, the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced on Tuesday. Quite different from the train which is 10 minutes late or the regular flight which arrives at its destination half an hour late.
They are Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopjev and Dmitri Petelin and their American colleague Francisco Rubio who were originally due to return to earth next month but now have to wait because the spacecraft they were due to return with has been damaged.
In December last year, the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft suffered a leak that made it look like someone had turned on a garden hose to shower. Large drops were visibly floating from the ship. Screening officials, who can be heard on a US NASA live stream, immediately spoke of a “substantial leak”.
little grain of sand
The culprit turned out to be an impact from a micrometeorite, a small speck of space debris that hit the Soyuz at high speed and blew a 1 millimeter hole. This allowed coolant to escape from a radiator.
In January, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had already determined that it was no longer safe to allow astronauts to return to the damaged ship. The reason for this was that after the leak it was no longer possible to cool the interior of the Soyuz, so the interior temperature rose to over 40 degrees Celsius on return. Because there was also moisture in the capsule, it would create a dangerous situation for space travelers.
Instead, Russia decided to send a replacement ship to the ISS. This ship, a Soyuz MS-23, will leave without a crew on board. The faulty Soyuz MS-22 will depart with only cargo on board that is not sensitive to the higher temperature and humidity during re-entry.
The departure of the replacement Soyuz was originally scheduled for last weekend, but was postponed earlier this month when a coolant leak also suddenly occurred on an unmanned Russian freighter to the ISS .
Roscosmos then conducted an additional survey of the replacement Soyuz to be sure. The agency concluded that there was no reason to suspect a structural problem with the cooling systems of its own spacecraft. Without further ado, the new Soyuz will depart for the ISS this Friday.
“Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover.”