After the Soyuz leak: ISS astronauts return with a replacement spacecraft

After Soyuz leak
ISS astronauts come back with a replacement spacecraft

A Soyuz capsule of the International Space Station (ISS).  Photo: Sergei Korsakov/Roscosmos State Space Corporation/AP/dpa

A Soyuz capsule of the International Space Station (ISS). photo

© Sergei Korsakov/Roscosmos State Space Corporation/AP/dpa

A leak discovered in a Soyuz capsule in December raised many questions: how did it happen, how bad is the damage and, most importantly, how will the astronauts get home from the ISS?

After a leak was discovered in a Russian Soyuz capsule in December, the three astronauts are now scheduled to return to Earth later than planned and with a replacement spacecraft from the International Space Station ISS. The two cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin as well as the NASA astronaut Frank Rubio are to fly back in the Soyuz MS-23 instead of in the Soyuz MS-22 capsule in which they docked with the ISS last September, said the head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Yuri Borisov, on Telegram on Wednesday.

When exactly that will be was not known at first. The return flight of the two Russians and the American was originally scheduled for March. Now, on February 20, the Soyuz MS-23 is to be sent from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the ISS and then, after some rearranging work, the Soyuz MS-22 is to fly back to Earth unmanned. The stay of the three astronauts on board the ISS could be extended by several months, according to Roskosmos.

The leak occurred on the Soyuz MS-22 capsule last December. Russian space experts suspected that the reason could have been the impact of a micrometeorid. This assumption has now been confirmed, said Borisov. The outer coating and a cooling unit were damaged. Because of the defect, a planned space walk by Prokopjew and Petelin had to be canceled at the time. However, both Roskosmos and NASA assured that they see no danger to the operation of the ISS. The schedule for the other planned manned flights to the ISS is currently being examined.

The crew is in good health, it said at a press conference by Nasa and Roskosmos on Wednesday. “They are willing to go along with whatever we decide,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program director. “I may have to fly up some more ice cream to reward her.”


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