Russia sets new contingency plan for crew of damaged space capsule

The Soyuz MS-22 capsule, which serves as a lifeboat for the crew, sprang a coolant leak last month after it was struck by a micrometeoroid - a small particle of space rock - which made a tiny puncture and caused the temperature inside to rise.

| Updated on: Jan 15 2023, 10:16 IST
6 STRANGEST massive black hole discoveries in 2022 that shook the world
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1/6 One of the most startling discoveries of 2022 was a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Known as Sagittarius A*, a direct image of this massive space entity was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope. With around 4 times the mass of our Sun, it is believed that the black hole plays a key role in holding our galaxy together. (Photo courtesy: Nasa)
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2/6 Even as Sagittarius A* lies within our own galaxy, it is not the closest black hole to the Earth. That title goes to the cosmic matter eating void, lying 1,566 light years away from the Earth in the Ophiuchus constellation. It was discovered in November.  (NASA)
Black Hole
3/6 But if a black hole in our cosmic backyard does not scare you, maybe this will. 2022 was also the year scientists discovered a rogue black hole wandering in space. This discovery is particularly of value since it was always believed that isolated black holes exist but it was never seen due to the difficulty in spotting them. Usually all the black holes we know of are part of a binary system, along with a neutron star. (NASA)
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4/6 A rare moment occurred in December 2022 when NASA spotted a black hole eating a passing star in a rare moment known as a tidal disruption event. It was believed that the star consumed by the black hole was similar to our Sun.    (AP)
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5/6 Even after decades of research and space exploration, we have still only observed just a few black holes in the universe. However, a study published this year has made some terrifying claims. Based on the number of stars spotted which are capable of turning into a black hole, and some number crunching on the potential number of stars that can exist, it was said that the universe currently contains 40 quintillion stellar-mass black holes. (AFP)
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6/6 Finally, the brightest black hole was also discovered this year. Known as J1144, this monstrous black hole is 500 times larger than Sagittarius A* and apparently it consumes matter worth the size of the Earth every second. Because of its consumption rate, it has created a massive accretion disk which makes it so bright. In fact, it can even be seen using a regular telescope. (NASA)
Soyuz capsule
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This undated handout photo taken by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Korsakov and released by Roscosmos State Space Corporation shows a Soyuz capsule of the International Space Station (ISS). Russian space corporation Roscosmos said Wednesday Jan. 11, 2023 that it will launch a new spacecraft to take some of the International Space Station's crew back to Earth after their capsule was damaged and leaked coolant. (AP)

Russia's space agency Roscosmos announced new contingency plans on Saturday for the three crew of a damaged capsule docked to the International Space Station, saying the U.S. member of the trio would return to Earth in a separate SpaceX vessel if they needed to evacuate in the next few weeks.

The Soyuz MS-22 capsule, which serves as a lifeboat for the crew, sprang a coolant leak last month after it was struck by a micrometeoroid - a small particle of space rock - which made a tiny puncture and caused the temperature inside to rise.

Roscosmos and NASA said this week that a new spacecraft, Soyuz MS-23, would be launched next month to bring back cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and U.S. astronaut Frank Rubio. But it will not dock with the ISS until Feb. 22.

Given there could be an earlier emergency, Rubio's seat was being moved from the MS-22 to a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, also docked to the ISS, Roscosmos said on Saturday.

"If an emergency evacuation is necessary, Francisco Rubio will return to Earth on it (the Crew Dragon), and the Roscosmos cosmonauts (will return) on the Soyuz MS-22, it said.

"The descent of two cosmonauts instead of three will be safer, as it will help reduce the temperature and humidity in the Soyuz MS-22."

The mission was due to end in March, but the plan now is to extend it by several months and bring the three men home on the MS-23. The latter had been due to take up three new crew in March, but instead will be launched empty next month to dock with the ISS.

Four other crew members are currently on the orbital station - two more from NASA, a third Russian and a Japanese astronaut, who all arrived in October on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been poisoned by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine but the two countries continue to work closely together on the ISS, an orbital laboratory abut 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth that has been continuously occupied for two decades.

Russia has said, however, it plans to quit the ageing project after 2024 and launch its own station.

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First Published Date: 15 Jan, 10:15 IST
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