Stranded in space may sound like a scene out of a science fiction movie, though the truth is a great deal less hype-filled. Space travel is an incredibly nerve – racking experience, requiring a lot of planning, a massive support personnel, along with a backup plan for nearly every eventuality.
This particular intensive preparation is precisely why the latest coolant leak on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is not as serious as it initially seemed.
A micrometeorite on the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked on the ISS in December 2022 harmed the capsule’s cooling systems which keep astronauts at comfortable temperatures on their descent to Earth. Engineers discovered the craft wasn’t fit for substitution except in case of emergency. The crew which had initially been toted aboard the Soyuz ended up being stranded.
However they had been stranded on board the best place in space: the International Space Station (ISS). “the ISS is a secure haven,” Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut who was on board the space shuttle in 2002 as well as 2009 to operate the Hubble space Telescope, stated in a statement. “If you get trapped up there, you simply hang out there for some time till somebody comes as well as gets you.”
The ISS is approximately the size of an American football field, and made up of nearly forty different modules, as diverse as solar panel systems to docking ports to pressurized, habitable living parts. Construction on this orbital behemoth started in 1998, and it’s been utilized by a minimum of one astronaut since the turn of the century.
Its flexible design isn’t just a characteristic of assembly, but a conscious design choice. In the event of a crisis – the best 3 tend to be fire, depressurization, and poisonous air – the crew exits the damaged region, closing off modules as they go to isolate the leak or some other concern. In the event that anything occurs aboard the ISS and the crew from Soyuz MS-22 are trapped, “the chances are you are going to have the ability to identify the issue till you discover how you can get some other individuals home,” Massimino said.
Astronauts also are trained to be at risk. They get ready at ground level prior to their journeys and on board the space station. Additionally, American astronauts have to be acquainted with Russian technology aboard as well as speak Russian to speak with their international counterparts.
A damaged return capsule does not feature prominently in the list of crises that astronauts are ready to deal with. The mission teams tend to be more interested in ensuring the ISS continues to be habitable and safe than they’re about the ferries between earth and space. “The spacecraft on which astronauts as well as cosmonauts travel to the space station will be the planned spacecraft for their return to Earth,” Joshua Finch, a NASA press representative, said.
During the late 1990s to early 2000s, NASA considered a separate “lifeboat” for the ISS, called the X-38. It might have been a glider much like the space shuttle with the sole objective of bringing back astronauts in crisis situations to Earth. Even though the prototypes had been successfully tried out, the program was canceled because of financial constraints in 2002. Rather, the astronauts learned to depend on the ISS, and that is continuously growing.
“after the crash of the Space shuttle Columbia, there had been a genuine chance you may not have the ability to come back due to the go back vehicle,” Massimino stated. “And we were not concerned about that because in case you examined the vehicle and discovered that it couldn’t be fixed, then you’d simply stay on the space station,” he said. Because individuals have resided aboard the ISS for almost as a year at a time, a brief layover there while awaiting your linking spaceflight does not seem so terrible.
Following the leak, Russian and american mission assistance teams immediately started coordinating their next steps, putting their rigorous training in motion while astronauts waited onboard. From putting more astronauts to the SpaceX capsule docked on the ISS to sending up brand new cars to take them home, a number of plans have been considered. “in the event of an urgent situation, engineers in each space company work in concert to offer safe return options, as Roscosmos and NASA have done while producing the Soyuz 68S crew return Plan,” Finch said.
At the beginning of January, Roscosmos and NASA agreed that the most effective option was to move the next Soyuz launch date and send an uncrewed capsule back home. The launch is likely to send up the Soyuz MS-23 on February 20 – and till then, the astronauts will carry on with business as usual and ride out their stay on the ISS, humanity’s sole oasis in space beyond our home world.