On the 15th of December NASA and its astronauts faced a terrifying situation when the Russian Soyuz space shuttle landed at the International Station, a huge cold leak erupted, just before two Russian cosmonauts were about to begin a spacewalk. The crew on board is safe and not in any immediate danger, but two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut were supposed to use the Soyuz vehicle to return to Earth early next year. With the spacecraft state in limbo, NASA and Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) tried to figure out their options for how to move forward.
To this end, NASA is rolling out one contingency plan: using the SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to effectively rescue stranded astronauts in the coming months.
“International Space Station crews continue to encounter a Soyuz MS-XXII external coolant loop leak,” a NASA spokesperson told The Daily Beast in an emailed statement. “NASA and Roscosmos will continue to review options together before making a final decision on how to bring the crew home safely. The Expedition 68 crew remains in good condition, performing maintenance and research activities.
“Come on, we’ve asked SpaceX a few questions about their ability to provide additional crew members on Dragon if needed, but that’s not our primary focus at this time.”
SpaceX did not respond to Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Russia’s Spacecraft Springs Huge Leak on ISS
It is unclear, however, what SpaceX’s next mission will be. A Crew Dragon spacecraft (named Crewe) has already landed on the ISS, and it is speculated that more seats could be added to that mission when it is supposed to return to Earth next year. But that mission has already been accomplished by four people: NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese Astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
Another option would be for NASA to prioritize the new SpaceX Crew Dragon launch on the ISS specifically to pick up the three crew members who were supposed to come aboard the Soyuz: NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin.
Inside the dangerous events of Russia’s Space Screwups
The loss of coolant means the Soyuz capsule is seeing huge spikes in temperature. NASA said the temperature of the capsule “remains within acceptable limits” and is cooled when the air floats out allowing the rest of the ISS to shut down. But it seems almost impossible to imagine that the capsule could still be used to transport people back to Earth.
The cause of the Soyuz leak remains unknown. Research has found a hole in the outer radiator that may have been caused by a micrometeoroid or a tiny piece of orbital debris. The lack of hardware can also be blamed – that would only add more scrutiny to the Roscosmos space to increase the screws.
Read more at The Daily Best.
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