The three astronauts will apparently be away from their home planet for twice as long as originally planned.
NASA’s Franck Rubio and cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on September 21, 2022.
The trio was supposed to return home in March on the same Soyuz. But the craft, known as MS-22, lost all of its coolant after an apparent micrometeoroid impact last month, rendering it unsuitable for carrying astronauts except in an emergency. Therefore, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roskosmos decided to launch the unmanned Soyuz spacecraft into the orbital laboratory on February 10. 20 to bring Rubio, Prokopiev and Petelin back to Earth.
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However, the next Soyuz will remain docked at the ISS until its successor, the crewed spacecraft, is ready to go. Most likely, it will not be for long, so Rubio, Prokopiev and Petelin will receive a serious extension of the mission.
“The plan is to have Frank, Dimitri and Sergey stay on board for a few more months until they get home. [in] at the end of September,” Dina Kontella, NASA manager for the integration of operations with the ISS, said at a press conference on Tuesday (January 17).
“We are looking at the exact time of this, but for now it will be the time the car should return home,” she said.
If “end of September” means sometime after September 21, then the MS-22 crew will end up staying in the air for a full year—something no NASA astronaut has done, as Eric Berger of Ars Technica recently noted. (will open in a new tab).
Some came close. For example, Mark Vande Hey lived on board the station for 355 days from April 2021 to April 2022. Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko spent 340 days in space from March 2015 to March 2016, while Christina Koch was absent from Earth for almost 329 days. from April 2019 to February 2020.
Of these missions, only the Kelly and Kornienko missions were to last that long. Their highly publicized “Year in Space” was designed to collect data on the effects of long-term space flight on the human body to help plan future manned missions to Mars.
Vande Hey and Koch stayed on board the ISS for longer than planned due to scheduling issues. Vande Hey’s extension, for example, was prompted by Russia’s decision to launch filmmakers on the next Soyuz rather than to replace the cosmonaut crew.
But NASA biomedical personnel and mission planners are no doubt using the additional data from these unexpectedly long flights, and they are likely to study Rubio, Prokopiev, and Petelin with the same attention and intensity.
By the way, astronauts live outside the Earth for a whole year continuously. Valery Polyakov holds the record for the longest solo space flight, having flown 437 consecutive days. (will open in a new tab) aboard the old Russian space station Mir in 1994 and 1995.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).