September 26, 2023

Brighton Journal

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Astronauts who have been stranded on the space station for a year are preparing to return home

Astronauts who have been stranded on the space station for a year are preparing to return home

Preparations are under way to bring home three astronauts who have been on the International Space Station for nearly a year — six months longer than expected.

A rescue vehicle sent earlier this year by the Russian space agency Roscosmos is scheduled to leave the International Space Station on September 27, carrying NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petlin and Sergei Prokopyev.

One of the ISS crew members was Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who arrived in March on the Arab world’s longest space mission.

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The Americans and Russians flew to the International Space Station on September 21, 2022. But three months after docking, their Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft suffered catastrophic damage — reportedly from a meteor strike.

Now the Soyuz MS-23 rescue vehicle, which arrived uncrewed at the International Space Station in February with 430 kilograms of supplies, is undergoing preparations for the three astronauts’ return trip to Earth.

How will they return?

One of two maneuvers performed on Friday, NASA said, so that Soyuz MS-23 could successfully unload from the International Space Station.

This will help ensure the correct trajectory for the homeward journey, while also making arrangements for the arrival of the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft – a planned Russian manned mission, which is due to travel to the space station in September.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio cuts the hair of Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi on the International Space Station.  Photo: Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

“The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft’s Delta rocket fired at 10:35 a.m. EST Friday for 22 minutes 48 seconds in a boost boost to the International Space Station,” NASA said Friday.

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“It was one of two scheduled re-traces to target Roscosmos’ Soyuz MS-24 launch and rendezvous to the orbital complex on September 15, as well as Soyuz MS-23 during its unwinding and landing on September 27.”

The three returning cosmonauts are scheduled to land in Kazakhstan, with the exact time to be announced soon.

What happened to the damaged spacecraft?

Roscosmos said Soyuz MS-22 may have been damaged by a micrometeor that blew a small hole in the spacecraft, causing a coolant leak that was beyond repair.

It will not be able to maintain a stable temperature for the astronauts during their journey home.

Russia returned the Soyuz MS-22 to Earth in autonomous mode in March.

In February, the cargo spacecraft, Progress MS-21, suffered a similar coolant leak, which was also blamed on “external factors”.

Record time in space

The extra six months means a record time spent by a US astronaut in space will be set.

Mr. Rubio will break the record set by Mark Vande He, who spent 355 consecutive days on the International Space Station from 2020 to 2021.

Anton Shkapelrov and Pyotr Dubrov, who were on the same mission as Mr. High, set a record time for Russians on the International Space Station. And Petlin and Prokopyev are set to get over it.

Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who died last year, holds the world record for the longest single stay in space. He spent 437 days on the Mir space station.

How do stranded astronauts spend their time?

The three men were busy performing the tasks that were supposed to be assigned to the crew that was supposed to replace them.

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These include doing maintenance work, doing spacewalks, outreach activities and science investigations.

Soyuz MS-24 will be aboard NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chubb.

The Emirati doctor, Al Neyadi, is scheduled to return to Earth this month aboard the SpaceX Dragon.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 5:44 AM