From the MCC to the ISS, recommendations were transmitted on the emergency evacuation of the Russian crew on the damaged Soyuz MS-22. There seems to be no other solution to this problem – there are seven people on the ISS, but the surviving American Crew Dragon, docked to the station, can accommodate only four. It turns out that not everyone will be saved?
Perhaps it is not so important what caused the accident on the Soyuz. Versions about the collision of the ship with space debris or a fragment of a meteorite, of course, are a priority, since they were voiced at the MCC in the hot pursuit of the disaster. But somehow, too sniper-like, a foreign body landed in a 10-centimeter radiator pipe. On the eve of the accident, the Earth passed through the Geminid meteor swarm, although this is only such a name – “swarm”, but in fact one meteor falls on thousands and tens of thousands of cubic kilometers of space. So consider what is the probability that some fragment will hit the ship – near zero. That is why, to be honest, the unofficial version of the poor-quality manufacturing of the contour is more credible. There were already “holes in the skin” of the Soyuz MS-09, due to which depressurization occurred, remember. No one seems to have drawn any conclusions. But now it’s not about that, but about how to evacuate the astronauts.
There is no danger, but it’s not certain
Nothing, as they say, foreshadowed: on December 15, cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin were supposed to go into outer space to transfer the radiator with the ERA manipulator from the Rassvet module in order to reinstall it on the Nauka module. While preparing for the exit, when the cosmonauts switched their spacesuits to internal power, an emergency situation occurred on the Soyuz docked to the ISS. NASA video broadcast recorded a fountain of liquid beating from the ship. The crew reported to Earth about a sharp drop in pressure in the cooling system. There were seven people at the station – three of ours, three Americans and a Japanese.
According to the instructions in situations like the one that happened – with a fountain of technical fluid spewing into outer space – the crew is instructed to urgently leave the station on a rescue ship docked to the ISS. This is exactly what the crew should have done during the depressurization of Soyuz MS-09 in 2018. But then they didn’t flog the fever, the hole was successfully “patched up” and everything worked out. And now it is hardly possible to repair the radiator in a similar mode. Welding a hole in outer space is difficult, but
it is possible, experts say. But to pump technical fluid into it – alas. There is no high-precision gas station, as on Earth, in space. Therefore, it is proposed to cool the internal circuit, although there is no guarantee that the temperature will not rise again from 30 to 50 degrees, or even higher. It should also be understood that the danger lies not in one critical overheating. The damaged cooling system of the Soyuz is key to ensuring the life of the crew, no less important than the air supply system. It’s cold in space. But direct sunlight can “fry” the ship like a frying pan. And if he gets into the shade, an icy cold will come. The human body will not withstand such a “swing”.
They say that there has never been a similar accident in the history of astronautics. And although experts assure that “the ship is completely sealed” and “it will be able to land on its own”, their further explanations (they say that the landing time should be adjusted so that the descent takes place in the shade, and not in the sun) implicitly hint that there is a problem. Unless, of course, the Soyuz MS-23 is sent for the astronauts stuck in orbit. But then they will have to wait until March. Faster – nothing. And about the corrected descent – this is a lottery. The Americans, I remember, dropped their Skylab orbital station in Australia – instead of the Indian Ocean. In Soviet times, we acted for sure: when in 1985 communication with Salyut-7 was cut off (then, by the way, they also assured that it was due to a sniper hit by a meteorite), two masters of force majeure landing were sent into orbit – Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Viktor Savinykh. But they say that today there are no specialists of this class at Roskosmos.
The final decision regarding the descent to Earth of the Russian crew has not yet been made, according to the representative of Roscosmos Sergey Krikalev. The cosmonauts will return either on a damaged spacecraft, or on a new one, but not earlier than spring. And nothing more, except to steal their vaunted Crew Dragon from the Americans.
Will foreigners help us?
As you understand, there was a joke about theft, but there is some truth in every joke – their reusable Crew Dragon may well become our lifesaver. Unless, of course, the leadership of Roskosmos decides to take such a step. The decision is political, whatever one may say. Americans are such and such, they are always plotting us, and here, you understand, they are lending a helping hand. By the way, they have already stretched it out – last week Russian cosmonauts began preparing for spacewalks from the American segment of the ISS. By the way, Americans go into outer space twice or even three times more often than ours. This is so, for reference. And last year, Roscosmos and NASA signed a contract to provide services in engineering support for the Zarya functional cargo block on the ISS. And there is such a point – “training Russian cosmonauts for extravehicular activities and robotics on the American segment of the station.” In turn, Roscosmos prepares American astronauts for cross-flights, and also provides support to NASA personnel during the work of American specialists at the Baikonur Cosmodrome during launches. It is gratifying that the cooling between Moscow and Washington in no way affects the space programs of the two countries. And by the way, NASA confirmed that the agency “together with Roscosmos” is studying options for returning” the Russian crew to Earth. Maybe ours will not hang in orbit until spring. However, Roskosmos is reassuring: Soyuz MS-23 can be sent for astronauts a little earlier, from about February 19th.
Nevertheless, the question arises: why didn’t Roscosmos work out such an emergency situation in advance? Pilot-cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko explained that the situation was being worked out for the failure of the pump, which “drives” the coolant under the skin: one failed – they switched to another. But the fact that the coolant would “knock out” was not even discussed. “In such cases, don’t change the pumps, they won’t drive anything, that’s the trouble.” According to the instructions, one should undock from the station and try to land on manual control, but, as it turns out, the crew did not work out this emergency situation on Earth either: the equipment responsible for the landing, as Kornienko put it, “can fool without cooling.” And guess now, will the pierced skin of the Soyuz withstand the passage through the Earth’s atmosphere or not? Kornienko assures that this should not be tested in practice, the risk is too great. But what about the expert opinion about the “sealed skin” and “possible landing”?! But in any way, the astronaut-pilot makes a helpless gesture. All that remains is to unhook the emergency Soyuz from the station so that it burns up in the atmosphere. The new Soyuz is being prepared for a maximum of three months. But from now on, it would be nice to adjust the pre-flight training system, since emergency situations like the current one began to arise with frightening frequency.