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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 underway to bring home three astronauts who have been on the International Space Station for about a year, six months longer than expected.

A rescue rover 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 Sergey Prokopyev.

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

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, apparently from a meteorite.

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

How will they return?

NASA said that one of the two maneuvers performed on Friday, so Soyuz MS-23 can be successfully unloaded from the International Space Station.

This will help ensure the correct trajectory for the return trip while arranging for the arrival of the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft, a planned Russian manned mission, which is expected to arrive at the space station in September.

“The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft’s Delta rocket fired Friday at 10:35 a.m. EDT with a duration of 22 minutes 48 seconds toward the International Space Station,” NASA said Friday.

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It was one of two scheduled recovery operations targeting Roscosmos’ Soyuz MS-24 launch and rendezvous with the orbital complex on September 15, as well as Soyuz MS-23 during its loosening and landing on September 27.

The three returning cosmonauts are expected 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 an irreparable coolant leak.

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

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

In February, the cargo spacecraft, Progress MS-21, had a similar coolant leak, also attributed to “external factors”.

Record time in space

The extra six months means a record amount of time in space for an American astronaut.

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 Bitlin and Prokopyev are ready to pass it on.

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 carrying out the tasks that had to be assigned to the crew he was supposed to replace.

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These include maintenance work, spacewalks, outreach activities, and scientific investigations.

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

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

Updated: August 16, 2023, 05:44 AM