Geopolitical tensions will not preserve an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts from returning to Earth collectively as deliberate this month.
NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov have lengthy been scheduled to return residence from the Worldwide House Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30. And that continues to be the plan, regardless of the pressure that Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has positioned on Russia’s many area partnerships.
“I can let you know for positive: Mark is coming residence on that Soyuz,” Joel Montalbano, the supervisor of NASA’s International Space Station program, stated throughout a information convention immediately (March 14). “We’re in communication with our Russian colleagues; there is not any fuzz on that.”
Associated: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as seen in satellite photos
The March 30 occasion will proceed like different Soyuz returns, Montalbano added. Vande Hei, Dubrov and Shkaplerov will contact down on the steppes of Kazakhstan. About 20 NASA workers shall be ready there to assist assess Vande Hei’s bodily situation — he has spent practically a 12 months in microgravity, which could be very hard on the human body — and produce him again to Houston, the place NASA’s human spaceflight program is centered.
As we speak’s press convention served primarily to preview a spacewalk that NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari will carry out exterior the orbiting lab tomorrow (March 15). However Montalbano opened the briefing by discussing “world occasions” — particularly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, and its varied impacts.
The invasion has spurred the US and different nations to impose new financial sanctions on Russia. Russia and its federal area company, Roscosmos, have decried these sanctions and pulled out of a number of longstanding partnerships in response.
For instance, Roscosmos introduced late final month that it was halting launches of Russian-built Soyuz rockets from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. And in early March, the company stated it might no longer sell Russian rocket engines to American firms.
Such strikes led to some hypothesis that the Worldwide House Station program, wherein Russia is a key and founding companion, could also be in bother as nicely. However Montalbano stated that the orbiting lab is working as common regardless of the problems on the bottom.
“We’re not seeing any impacts [from] what is going on on round us,” he stated. “We’re conscious of what is going on on, however we’re capable of do our job to proceed operations.”
He additionally stated that the invasion has not compromised morale or professionalism among the many seven astronauts — 4 People, two Russians and one German — presently dwelling on the station.
“They proceed to function, you already know, above all this work, and there is actually no tensions with the crew,” Montalbano stated. “They have been educated to do a job, they usually’re up there doing that job.”
He additionally burdened that the Worldwide House Station and its varied techniques have been designed to be extremely interdependent, so it would not be straightforward to exchange the roles performed by a key companion, ought to one select to go away.
For instance, docked Russian Progress cargo autos periodically increase the station’s altitude, to maintain it from being pulled down an excessive amount of by atmospheric drag. A Cygnus freighter, which is constructed by American aerospace firm Northrop Grumman, will quickly carry out its first reboosting thruster fireplace. However it’ll achieve this in live performance with a Progress burn, Montalbano stated.
“So whereas the Cygnus spacecraft will do the reboost, the Russian thrusters on the Progress shall be energetic and serving to management perspective [orientation],” he stated. “The thrusters on the Cygnus spacecraft usually are not highly effective sufficient to go forward and do perspective management throughout that reboost.”
Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e-book in regards to the seek for alien life. Observe him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.