RUSSIA: Two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut whose original trip home developed a serious leak while parked at the International Space Station (ISS) were rescued by a rescue ship launched by Russia on Friday.
On Sunday, the empty Soyuz capsule should reach the orbiting lab. A micrometeorite that pierced an exterior radiator and leaked coolant was thought to be the cause of the capsule leak in December.
On a parked Russian cargo ship, the same thing seemed to occur once more early this month. Views from the cameras revealed a tiny hole in each spaceship. Two senior NASA officials flew in from the United States to see the launch in person because this capsule was so desperately needed.
Authorities had decided it would be too risky to return NASA’s Frank Rubio, Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev, and Dmitri Petelin’s damaged Soyuz next month as originally intended.
Without coolant, the cabin temperature would rise during the return voyage to Earth, perhaps harming computers and other equipment and exposing the crew’s protective clothing to too much heat.
Rubio will switch to a crew capsule stationed at the space station under emergency preparations until the replacement Soyuz arrives. In the unlikely event of a last-minute escape, Prokopyev and Petelin are still assigned to their damaged Soyuz.
Russian engineers decided that by removing one passenger, the temperature would be kept at a potentially bearable level. At the end of March, the damaged Soyuz will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere without any passengers, so engineers may inspect it.
On what was supposed to be a six-month expedition, the three men took off in this Soyuz last September. They will now spend an entire year in space until a new capsule is prepared for their crew replacements’ launch in September. Their Soyuz just took off without anyone on board.
Over the weekend, the damaged supply ship was released and loaded with trash, which burned up in the atmosphere as intended.
NASA’s deputy programme manager for the space station, Dana Weinberg, told reporters earlier this week that “the Russians are continuing to take a detailed look” at both spacecraft leaks.
A fresh NASA crew of four is taking off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center early on Monday morning atop a SpaceX rocket. According to William Gerstenmaier of SpaceX, the four astronauts who will return to Earth in a few weeks have already tested out the Dragon capsule that will take them home, and “it all checked out fine.”
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