On Dec. 14, because the cosmonauts had been making ready to go away the station’s airlock to carry out a spacewalk, floor controllers observed a leak of coolant spraying uncontrollably into area. Roscosmos, the Russian area company, instantly canceled the spacewalk and decided that the leak was coming from a tiny gap in an exterior cooling line, about 1 mm vast. The coolant is used to maintain the capsule at a cushty temperature.
Since then, Roscosmos, in cooperation with NASA, had been attempting to find out whether or not the spacecraft was wholesome sufficient to fly the crew dwelling or if the company wanted to ship up a rescue craft. The groups decided that with out the coolant, temperatures contained in the spacecraft might exceed 100 levels Fahrenheit. The excessive temperature mixed with humidity might have an effect on the spacecraft’s computing techniques and in addition make the ambiance uncomfortable for the crew.
NASA and Roscosmos have mentioned that the crew members on the station usually are not in peril and that they’ve continued to conduct analysis and science experiments, together with rising tomatoes, whereas crews on the bottom developed an answer for the issue. Seven persons are onboard the station: the three who flew on the Soyuz craft in September and 4 who flew to the station in October on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which is also docked on the station.
In a name with reporters Wednesday, NASA’s area station program supervisor, Joel Montalbano, sought to downplay the severity of the problem, saying there’s “no speedy want for the crew to return dwelling at present.”
Talking from Moscow, the place he was concerned in conferences with Roscosmos officers, Montabano mentioned NASA was not “calling it a rescue Soyuz. … I’m calling it a alternative Soyuz.”
Sergei Krikalev, the chief director of Roscosmos’ human spaceflight applications, mentioned the companies put together for this type of scenario, understanding they’re extraordinarily uncommon. “This can be a situation we envision, and now we’re mainly following the process,” he mentioned.
Krikalev mentioned it was “the primary time I bear in mind” having to ship a alternative spacecraft to the station. “We’ve by no means had the actual want to do that” he mentioned.
NASA and Roscosmos are analyzing choices within the occasion of an emergency that may require the crews to evacuate the station earlier than the rescue Soyuz arrives. The Soyuz crew might nonetheless board its spacecraft and use it as a lifeboat, with out returning to Earth’s ambiance. It additionally could be attainable to suit an extra crew member within the SpaceX Dragon capsule.
The plan now would contain crews going “in your respective automobiles at present,” Montalbano mentioned. “However, in parallel, we have now been speaking to SpaceX and an choice of what we are able to do with the SpaceX automobile.”
He mentioned NASA officers concurred with Roscosmos’ view that the harm to the Soyuz automobile docked on the area station most likely was attributable to a micrometeoroid. He mentioned there was nothing irregular “within the manufacturing of this automobile.” Earth’s orbit additionally has been flooded with particles from a Russian missile strike on a lifeless satellite tv for pc in 2021 that, on the time, required crews on the area station to shelter of their spacecraft.
General, Montalbano mentioned, NASA and Roscosmos “have labored extraordinarily effectively collectively, each the technical groups and the administration crew. It’s a true testomony to the partnership.”
With a recent Soyuz on the station, Krikalev mentioned, the three-member crew’s mission could be prolonged by a variety of months. It’s not clear, although, how the launch of the alternative automobile would have an effect on NASA’s schedule. For now, SpaceX is anticipated to fly one other crew of astronauts to the station in February. “We’ll want a pair extra weeks earlier than we’re able to outline a bunch of recent launch dates,” Montalbano mentioned.
Crew members on the area station had been in good spirits and persevering with to go about their enterprise, he mentioned. However he added: “I’ll need to fly some extra ice cream as much as reward them.”