A stream of particles, which NASA says appears to be liquid and possibly cool, sprays from the Soyuz spacecraft on the International Station, during a routine spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts on Dec. 14.
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MOSCOW – Russia’s space agency Roscosmos announced new contingency plans on Saturday for the three crew members of the damaged capsule that landed on the International Space Station, saying a member of the US trio would return to Earth in a separate SpaceX vessel if they needed to leave in the next few weeks.
The Soyuz capsule MS-22, which serves as a spacecraft for the crew, burst with a coolant leak last month after it was struck by a micrometeoroid – a small particle of space rock – which made a tiny puncture and caused the temperature inside to rise.
Roscosmos and NASA said this week that a new spacecraft, Soyuz MS-23, will be launched next month to bring back cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and US astronaut Frank Rubio. But since the ISS will not be docked until February 22nd.
While it may have been an emergency earlier, Rubio’s seat was moved from MS 22 to the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and landed on the ISS, Roscosmos said on Saturday.
“If the launch is necessary, Francisco Rubio will return to Earth (Crew Dragon), and the Roscosmos cosmonauts (will return) in the MS-XXII Soyuz,” he said.
“The descent of two cosmonauts instead of three will be safer, as the Soyuz MS-22 will help reduce the temperature and humidity of the Soyuz.”
The mission was supposed to end in March, but the plan is now several months ahead and the three men brought home to MS-23. They were due to receive three new crews in March, but instead next month will be empty to join the crew with the ISS.
Four other crew members are currently on the orbital station – two from NASA, a third Russian and a Japanese astronaut, who all arrived in October on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been poisoned by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but the two countries continue to be closely linked on the ISS, an orbital laboratory 250 miles above Earth that has been continuously occupied for two decades.
But Russia has said it plans to retire the aging plan after 2024 and bring down its own station.
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