Jan 12, 2023
Russia Sending Replacement Soyuz Capsule to Rescue International Space Station Crew Transcript
A Soyuz capsule which was meant to bring two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut back to Earth was damaged after being hit by a micrometeoroid last month. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Russia is launching a mission to rescue three people from the International Space Station. A Soyuz capsule meant to bring the two cosmonauts and one astronaut back to Earth was damaged after being hit by a micro meteoroid. Russia’s space agency is sending a new one. The three crew members, including an American, will remain aboard the ISS for another few months before it arrives. For more on all of this, let’s bring in CBS News space analyst, Bill Harwood, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Bill, first of all, how much danger is there because of this leak?
Bill Hardwood (00:42):
Well, if you think about it like a rescue mission, it’s a rescue mission in the sense that they’re stranded on the station until this new Soyuz gets there. And by the way, it should be there in late February. So it’s not that far off, but as you said, they’re going to be up there for several months beyond that because that’s how these flights get scheduled. You go up for six months at a time and they’re going to stay up until the fall timeframe, when another crew will then come up to finally replace them. They’re not in any immediate danger. The space station is as healthy as it has been. There’s no threat to the crew right now. The real question is, what would happen if a real emergency developed between now and when the new spacecraft gets there? How would they get home in that case if they had to evacuate the station? And they’re studying those options right now.
Speaker 1 (01:27):
And so a micro meteoroid, explain to me, what is that and how dangerous is a micro meteoroid when it’s flying around?
Bill Hardwood (01:37):
When we see pictures from space, John, it always looks like things are moving in slow motion, doesn’t it? But they’re actually moving at more than 17,000 miles an hour in Earth orbit. And just to put that into perspective, that’s more than 80 football fields per second. That’s just material in low Earth orbit. But in this case, they’re talking about a tiny rock fragment, about a millimeter wide, that came in from deep space. Those things are traveling much faster than that, or can be, anyway. And so when you think about that amount of energy hitting something, it packs quite a punch. And in this case, it just happened to hit a coolant line on the Soyuz and it allowed all the coolant to spill overboard, so they don’t have a way to keep the electronics on that spacecraft cool. That’s the problem.
Speaker 1 (02:20):
And does the International Space Station have enough and do they prepare for this kind of thing? They have enough food, water, oxygen, so forth to sustain until everybody’s okay?
Bill Hardwood (02:30):
Yeah, good question. They absolutely do. They have plenty of supplies on board. So in this case, it’s not going to be an issue. And remember, un-piloted cargo ships routinely go to the station. They can send up food, clothing, spare parts, things like that. So again, the crew is not in any immediate danger, but they’re definitely taking this seriously. It’s the first time in more than 20 years the station has been permanently staffed that they’ve had a problem like this where one of their lifeboats can’t be used and they’ve got to send up, as you said, a rescue ship.
Speaker 1 (03:00):
And our last question here, Bill. We’re talking about the Russians and the US cooperating. The Russians are going to withdraw from the ISS in a year, but for now, this is an area where they’re getting along and cooperating, US and Russia.
Bill Hardwood (03:14):
Yeah, it really has been for a long time. And they’re not pulling out in a year. They’ve simply said they haven’t yet given approval to how long they’re going to stay with the ISS. NASA and its partners want to stay until the end of the decade. It’s unclear yet how long the Russians will stay, but you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is one of the rare areas where the US and Russia still cooperate on a daily basis, very collegial. They respect each other. They get the job done across multiple timezones and languages and the political turmoil in the world. It really is an International Space Station and they’ve done a pretty good job of making that work.
Speaker 1 (03:48):
All right. Bill Harwood, getting the job done for us. Thank you, Bill.
Bill Hardwood (03:53):