A group of astronauts are trapped in Earth orbit after their spaceship suffers catastrophic damage.
A rescue ship is available to bring them home, but there’s a catch. It has only four seats – and there are seven of them.
It looks like a painful plot for a Hollywood movie to rival the plight of Bruce Willis in disaster Or George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in gravity.
Indeed, this is the real-life dilemma astronauts on the International Space Station could face after Russia’s Soyuz capsule was so badly damaged that it may be beyond repair.
Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petlin and Sergey Prokopyev and US Space Agency astronaut Frank Rubio arrived at the International Space Station in September aboard a Soyuz ship that was due to take them home in March. Two weeks ago while docked at the International Space Station, Soyuz developed a huge coolant leak that some experts believe can no longer safely fly.
The only other spacecraft on the ISS is the American SpaceX Dragon, which carried a group of four astronauts, two from NASA, a Canadian and a Russian, in October.
Plan an escape route
If the International Space Station needs an emergency evacuation, this group can escape in the Dragon. For the remaining three, there will be no way back home.
Russia’s space agency Roscomos is still assessing the extent of the damage to the Soyuz, as well as the likely cause.
Video captured on December 14 showed coolant flowing from the ship into the vacuum of space from a hole in a tube less than a millimeter wide, with temperatures already rising inside the capsule.
It is believed that the damage was caused by a hit from a small meteorite or a small piece of space debris. Either way, the risks of using the ship during the return heat are high.
Tomaso Sjoba, former head of spaceflight safety at the European Space Agency, believes the Soyuz is unusable. “I have to assume that the Soyuz spacecraft’s active cooling system has been compromised, and therefore, the Soyuz is no longer available for operation,” he told Space.com. “It’s my personal feeling, but if that’s true, then we have a huge problem with the space station. We’re missing a crew escape system.” “.
Any rescue would have to involve another Soyuz. Astronauts using the newer SpaceX Dragon ship wear made-to-measure suits, which means those on the International Space Station who made it to the Russian ship won’t fit in a SpaceX capsule.
Individual rescue driving trips
The most likely solution is for Russia to send its next Soyuz capsule, scheduled for launch in March or late February, as an unmanned launch, allowing the stranded astronauts to return in the empty craft.
Sjuba, who now heads the International Association for the Advancement of Space Security, is skeptical that this can be achieved. “I don’t think Soyuz can dock completely autonomously. I think there should be at least one person on board,” he said.
If that’s the case, Russia would need to launch two capsules, both manned, to the International Space Station, to bring everyone back home. Meanwhile, the three astronauts on the space station are facing several rough months.
The risk of something happening to the International Space Station during that time, leading to an evacuation, is always there. At the end of November, a space walk by two NASA astronauts is canceled after debris from a Russian satellite destroyed in a rocket test comes dangerously close.
A month earlier, the International Space Station had had to launch its thrusters to avoid possible collisions with more debris from the same satellite, Cosmos 1408.
These incidents are a timely reminder of the dangers of space travel. All 19 astronauts killed since 1971 have been killed in Earth’s atmosphere, either on take-off or re-entry.
A stark reminder of the dangers of space travel
But the prospect of dying alone in space itself, with no hope of rescue, is most chilling. The 12 men who walked on the moon knew there was no way back if their equipment failed, but the aborted Apollo 13 mission, 50 years ago, was akin to disaster.
Only the ingenuity of the three crew and NASA’s Mission Control Center brought them safely home after an explosion some 322,000 km from Earth.
The Artemis program now promises to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, with new spaceships, but all the dangers that come with that.
Artemis wouldn’t even get back up on the lunar lander, which provided a life-saving haven for the three Apollo 13 crew on their journey home. The new Orion spacecraft will travel to the moon separately from the probe, which will only link up once the two spacecraft are in lunar orbit.
And with more players in manned spaceflight including the SpaceX Starship, Boeing and Blue Origin funded by Amazon billionaire Elon Musk, the question of whether a rescue can be carried out is on the agenda again.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was developed by the United Nations and requires astronauts from one country to help those from another if they get into trouble. But she doesn’t remember how.
During the construction of Skylab, America’s original space station in 1973, NASA kept a second shuttle on the launch pad during missions in case of an emergency.
For the International Space Station, a lifeboat, called the Crew Return Vehicle, has been proposed, to be permanently installed on the space station, with enough seating for everyone on board.
The ship was a copy of the Space Shuttle, but the Challenger and Columbia disasters called into question the integrity of the design and the project was canceled.
Since then, the Soyuz and now Dragon capsules have served as “lifeboats,” an arrangement that has worked well — until now.
While astronauts were previously aware of the dangers of spaceflight, the explosive growth in space tourism — soon to include actor Tom Cruise who plans to shoot a movie on the International Space Station next year — means that the question of some sort of official rescue service is in the offing. It is considered.
The US-funded Aerospace Research Center published a report last year, highlighting what it called the “space rescue capability gap.”
It concluded that “neither the US government nor commercial spaceflight service providers currently have plans to conduct a timely rescue of a crew from a crashed spacecraft in low Earth orbit or anywhere in space.”
Grant Keats, who worked on the space shuttle program and now works for Aerospace, published his own analysis in Aerospace Safety Engineering Journal last year.
“The risks involved in space travel are many, compounded by the fact that there are no plans and accompanying capabilities to rescue a crew in time from a malfunctioning spacecraft,” he wrote.
At the same time, Gates concluded: “As the largest spacefaring country in the world [the US] It has the potential to develop and use effective rescue capabilities in space.”
Next year we can see the launch of dearMoon Mission. The SpaceX Starship will carry nine passengers on a six-day mission that includes a flyby of the moon.
These will not be ordinary astronauts. Only the leader, Japanese fashion retail billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, has ever flown in space, and only as a tourist to the International Space Station.
The other eight are Steve Aoki, American dance music producer and DJ, Rhiannon Adam, Irish photographer, Dev Joshi, 23, Indian TV star, Czech choreographer, YouTube star, dancer who has worked with Kanye West and Top. South Korean rapper.
dearMoon’s stated goals are world peace and artistic creation, but if something goes wrong, he will be remembered more as the 21st century version of Titanic.
Except for Titanic He had at least a few lifeboats.
Updated: December 30, 2022, 6:00 p.m
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