It will be a while back for the space station crew currently hanging on to the space shuttle Soyuz to return home.
If the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft is deemed safe after it cools down into space on Dec. 14. the two cosmonauts and NASA astronauts will have to wait until February to reach the back of the Soyuz at the International Space Station (ISS), a Russian space official said at a press conference on Thursday (Dec. 22).
“The next crew … will fly in mid-March,” said Sergei Krikalev, head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, during a live NASA press conference.
A new Soyuz is planned to land for that crew instead of an empty launch to retrieve the three ISS crew members if they become stranded. But Krikalev said that only “sent a little earlier … about two, three weeks ago is the most we can do at this point.”
In pictures: International Space Station at 20
The cause of the hole that caused the leak is still under investigation, but one idea is excluded: it was not part of the ongoing Geminid meteor shower, as the trajectory was in the wrong direction, Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager; during the same briefing.
On Sunday (Dec. 18), NASA activated the cameras on the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. The survey found a small hole in MS-XXII that is likely the cause of the leak, but how the hole was made is not yet known.
“We came up with some work with images to better understand if it was a meteoroid hit or if it was a hardware issue, and this work is ahead of us,” said Montalbano. Another possibility is a piece of space junk, but Krikalev said such an object would be too small to track from the ground as the hole was only 0.8 millimeters wide.
If Russia is indeed fast-tracking the next Soyuz to the space station, the damaged MS-22 would return empty. “Roscosmos planned to return the current Soyuz into orbit and collect data so they can use it for future evaluations,” Montalbano said.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Taller? (Opens in a new tab)? ” (ECW Press, 2022; astronaut with Canadian Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. @howellspace (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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