U.S., Russia Announce Plan to Bring Home Three Astronauts Stuck on International Space Station

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will be getting a ride home from the International Space Station — but it may take a while.

The trio flew to the space station in a Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft in September. In December, a tiny micrometeorite strike caused a puncture no more than 1 millimeter in diameter in the Soyuz, which was enough to cause coolant to leak out into space.

Russian space officials have been working with NASA since the incident to come up with the best course of action. Would the MS-22 spacecraft be able to safely deliver the crew home? Could they get a replacement vehicle to the station? Or would they need to call upon commercial partners like SpaceX for help?

The Russian Space Agency gave its answer on Wednesday, announcing it would be sending up an uncrewed replacement craft, Soyuz MS-23, to replace the damaged spacecraft as a crew lifeboat. That craft is slated to launch on Feb. 20, and the MS-22 will be sent back to Earth without a crew.

“Analysis of the spacecraft, including thermal calculations and technical documentation, shows that the MS-22 must be landed without a crew on board,” Sergei Krikalev, the executive director of Russia’s human spaceflight program, said during a news briefing.

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SOURCE: The Hill, Amy Thompson