The three astronauts apparently left their home planet because they thought twice as long as the first time.
NASA launched Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin toward the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Sept. 21.
The trio was supposed to come home in the same Soyuz in March. The vehicle, which is MS-22, lost all of its coolant after an apparent micrometeoroid impact a month ago, rendering it unfit to carry astronauts except in case of emergency. So the Russian space agency Roscosmos decided to send the Soyuz to the orbiting lab on February 20. to send an increment to bring Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin back to Earth.
Related: The hole in the Soyuz spacecraft was not from the Geminid meteor
However, that next Soyuz landed on the ISS until its successor — the vehicle that would carry the crew — was ready to go. That’s going to be the next season, as Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin have a hefty mission extension.
“The plan is for Francis and Dimitri and Sergey to stay on board for a few more months until they come home, probably [in] late September,” said Dina Contella, NASA ISS operations integration manager at a press conference on Tuesday (Jan. 17).
“We are looking at the time itself, but at this point, when the vehicle would be coming home,” he said.
If “late September” is sometime after Sept. 21 means, then the MS-22 song will stay on for an entire year — something no NASA astronaut has ever accomplished, as Ars Technica’s Eric Berger recently noted. (Opens in a new tab).
A few came close. For example: Mark Vande Hei boarded the station for 355 days between April 2021 and April 2022. Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko began a 340-day period between March 2015 and March 2016, and Christina Koch was away from Earth for almost 329 days; from April 2019 to February 2020.
Of these missions, only Kelly and Kornienko were supposed to last that long. The highly publicized “year in space” was dedicated to collecting data on the effects of long-term space travel on the human body, to help plan future missions to Mars.
Vande Hei and Koch’s ISS spacecraft took longer than planned due to scheduling issues. Vande Hei extended, for example, the need for Russia’s plan to send filmmakers to the next Soyuz on board rather than an astronaut crew.
And NASA’s biomedical personnel and mission planners will no doubt be using the extra data generated in these unexpected past flights – and Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin will likely study with the same vision and enthusiasm.
Cosmonauts have lived by the Earth for a continuous year. Valery Polyakov holds the record for the duration of a single torture session of 437 consecutive days (Opens in a new tab) killed Russia’s old Mir space station in 1994 and 1995.
Mike Wall is the author of “There you go (Opens in a new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (Opens in a new tab) or * Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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