Skip to comments.Empty Space Station? NASA Prepares for the Worst (but Hopes for the Best) After Soyuz Abort
Posted on 10/14/2018 12:28:45 AM PDT by iowamark
A few months from now, the International Space Station (ISS) could be unoccupied for the first time in nearly two decades.
Russia's workhorse Soyuz rocket suffered a serious anomaly just minutes after launching two astronauts toward the ISS today (Oct. 11), forcing the spaceflyers' crew craft to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan.
Those two explorers NASA's Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin made it through the bumpy touchdown just fine and are in good condition, NASA officials said. But the Soyuz will be grounded while Russian investigators try to figure out exactly what happened today, and how to prevent it from occurring again.
While Russia will doubtless make the investigation a high priority, it's unclear how long this work will take, Kenny Todd, NASA's ISS operations integration manager, stressed during a postlaunch news conference today.
"We'll have to see where the data leads them," Todd said. "And if that's a month, or if it's two months, or six I really can't speculate on the length of it."
Hague and Ovchinin were supposed to join three crewmembers already aboard the ISS NASA astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.
Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev are scheduled to return to Earth in December (and have more than enough food, water and other supplies to last until then, despite today's launch failure, Todd said). The Soyuz and its accompanying crew craft somewhat confusing, also called Soyuz have been astronauts' only ride to the ISS since NASA grounded its space shuttle fleet in 2011. So, if the rocket isn't ready to fly in a couple of months, the orbiting lab could soon be vacant.
That would be a very odd development indeed. The ISS has been continuously occupied by rotating astronaut crews, usually on five- to six-month stints, since November 2000.
It's possible that NASA, Russia and the other ISS partners could extend the mission of Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev, but only by a few weeks. That's because Soyuz spacecraft have design lifetimes of about 200 days on orbit. There's a bit of wiggle room in there, but not much; the vehicle that will take the current ISS crew home will "expire" in early January, Todd said.
Astronauts conduct large numbers of experiments aboard the ISS, so leaving the orbiting lab unoccupied would be a scientific shame. But the $100 billion outpost wouldn't be imperiled; ground controllers could keep it up and running for a while, Todd said.
"I feel very confident that we could fly for a significant amount of time" without crewmembers, he said. If "the pumps do their job, and all the other systems the [solar] arrays to continue to rotate, and we keep the batteries charged there's nothing that says we can't continue to just bore holes in the sky and do a minimal amount of commanding." [The Soyuz Rocket: Russia's Venerable Booster]
Critical ISS systems have good redundancy, Todd added. So, "we can tolerate some failures, some significant failures, and continue to operate the station in a de-crewed manner," he said.
NASA's Commercial Crew Program has been encouraging the development of private American astronaut taxis, awarding multibillion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop vehicles called Crew Dragon and the CST-100 Starliner, respectively.
But these private spaceships won't be ready to fly astronauts for a while yet; SpaceX's first crewed test flight is currently scheduled for June 2019 and Boeing's for August of that year.
I think it’s time for a big Trump Resort out in space. I’m guessing the liberals wouldn’t like that too much.
The TRUMP ORBITAL.
How many people out there would spend a million dollars or so for a trip to low earth orbit? Only the government.
The price will come down drastically after the first few years. I'm sure its just a matter of time before space travel of some sort becomes fairly routine.
This is why we need Spacex’s Crewed Dragon up and running ASAP. Test launch with no crew it set for January, but this might mess that up. Not sure if they need anyone inside to dock with a new system. The Boeing CST-100 is also coming online next year, so they’re coming, but hopefully not too late.
Trump will retire from being president in 2025, so perhaps that will be his retirement hobby business... you know, just to keep busy and stuff. He's not the sort to just stop and sit in a recliner for the rest of his life.
Was the soyuz checked for “extra” holes drilled into it yet ???
From the folks wearing wire harnesses to simulate floating in space, to videos showing bubbles rising as they are walking in space (the bubbles as proof it's really being shot inside a pool), to actual pieces of green screens being used for the video footage.
He is only charging the US GOVT $45 million per launch vs the $140 million that the Russians are billing us, and they are very mad at him!
But what they would want even more is to fully take it over and turn it into a weapon platform, while also using it for their own research.
Many people would not be sleeping comfortable at nights if they ever got to place a nuke weapon platform into space, and I'm very sure that the Russians would balk at that too!
The thought of 100 Chinese nuke warheads, each with 300 KT, orbiting just 250 miles over my head, is totally unacceptable! Where are the 56 fabled Solar Warden spaceships that the USA is supposed have?
Actually not - only the ‘planned end’ (funding end) not the actual end (physical deterioration) - they were in the process of expanding the station
Looking for holes was part of the spacewalk mission for the two new guys.
Don’t feed the Space Troll.
There are treaties that prohibit that. Sanctions for that would put the Chinese out of business and starving in short order. No one in the world would tolerate that.
Space Troll - interesting concept/label
Your “lot of folks” are idiots. You can go outside on a clear night and see the ISS with your own eyes.
“I think its time for a big Trump Resort out in space. Im guessing the liberals wouldnt like that too much.”
Will be interesting to see what the golf course would look like.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.