Last year, there was some drama aboard the International Space Station as Russian cosmonauts were forced to abandon a spacewalk after a leak was found in a Soyuz capsule connected to the ISS. The leak, it transpired, was caused by a tiny meteoroid that hit the crew’s return ship and put the craft out of action, leaving three crew members stranded aboard, in need of rescue.
The leak aboard Soyuz capsule MS-22, which astronauts use for their return trip to Earth, was discovered in early December. It resulted in an increased cabin temperature and experts deemed the capsule “unfit” to use. With no return craft, a rescue flight is finally being planned to bring the space travelers home.
If you’re anything like me, Aerosmith is probably playing in your head as you imagine NASA assembling a team of the brightest and best to launch two rockets into space simultaneously to save the world and bring these brave heroes home.
Sadly, that isn’t quite what’s happening. Instead, The Guardian reports that Russia will launch a craft into space next month to rescue the stricken astronauts from the ISS. The Guardian reports:
“After deliberations, Roscosmos said it has decided to bring forward a planned March launch of the Soyuz MS-23 to 20 February so it can be used to transport the Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and the US astronaut Francisco Rubio back to Earth.
“If a ‘particularly critical’ situation arose on the ISS in the weeks before then, Roscosmos said, the possibility of using the damaged Soyuz MS-22 to rescue the crew would be considered.”
Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio are part of a seven-strong crew onboard the ISS. The four other team members will be brought back to Earth on a Space X capsule currently docked with the station. Once the Space X craft leaves the ISS, this will free up the second of two docking stations on the space base. Then, Roscosmos will be able to fly a spare Soyuz craft up to the ISS to dock with the station and bring the crew members home.
The rescue flight, Soyuz MS-23, was originally scheduled to fly a new crew up to the ISS. But, the flight will be empty when it launches into orbit on its rescue mission. Once it docks with the space station, the damaged MS-22 craft will return to Earth empty.