It’s a race against time in the vast expanse of space as the Russian government announced on Wednesday that they will be launching a daring rescue mission to bring three of its astronauts back to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) after a leak was discovered in their capsule. The capsule, Soyuz MS-22, was hit by a micrometeoroid causing a tiny hole of less than 1 millimeter wide in the external cooling system.
The incident has forced the Russian government to launch Soyuz MS-23 on February 20th to replace the damaged capsule and bring the crew back to Earth. The damaged Soyuz MS-22 will be brought back to Earth without a crew. The Russian cosmonauts, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, along with U.S. astronaut Francisco Rubio, were scheduled to end their mission in space in March, but their return to Earth has been delayed by a few more months.
This unexpected turn of events has put the Russian government and its space program on high alert. Sergei Krikalev, chief of crewed space programs for Russia, said in a statement, “Space is not a safe place, and not a safe environment. We have meteorites, we have a vacuum and we have a high temperature and we have complicated hardware that can fail.” He added, “In case of an emergency, when the crew will have a real threat to life on the station, then probably the danger of staying on the station can be higher than going down in an unhealthy Soyuz.”
With the safety of the crew being the top priority, spacewalks have been called off while officials focus on the leaking capsule.