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Completely Disconnected: Russian Threatening Gestures Toward US Astronauts On ISS Irritate Nasa Panorama Society

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Scott Kelly was so stunned that he replied to a tweet for the first time in his life. The American astronaut has spent more than a year aboard the International Space Station ISS and has always worked well with Russian cosmonauts. He completed his education not only in the USA, but also in Star City near Moscow, and is fluent in Russian. And now this!
[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen.]

Kelly responded angrily to a tweet from Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. He had posted a video online showing two Russian cosmonauts gliding weightless through the ISS and waving a relaxed goodbye to American astronaut Mark Vande Hei before disappearing into the Soyuz capsule that will bring them back to Earth. Vande Hei takes care of them.

Such a moment could be near. On March 18, Soyuz MS-21 takes off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, with the three Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Dennis Matveyev, and Sergey Korsakov on board. You are the scheduled changing of the guard. Vande Hei will return to Earth at the end of the month with two Russian colleagues, Anton Sklaperov and Pyotr Dubrow.

The video suggests a cynical scenario.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine also changed everything in orbit. The Roskosmos video now suggested a completely different and cynical scenario.

“It is unimaginable that the Russian space program would hold a man in space responsible,” Kelly said. And then she added: “Although I just said, I can’t imagine they would leave a person behind: now I don’t know anymore.” Rogozin, who has never been a diplomat, replied: “Shut up, idiot.”

The war of words between Kelly and Rogozin is the temporary low point, perhaps even the end of a cooperation in space that for a long time seemed independent of all the tensions that existed on earth between Russia and the US. Even after Before Putin’s war against Ukraine began, NASA seemed confident that the ISS program would not be affected.

Threat of “uncontrolled shock” in the US

But then, immediately after the Russian aggression, the Kosmos programs were also frozen. US President Joe Biden announced in his first reaction to the war that the US would block exports related to the aerospace industry and the Kosmos program. A compromise should have been found for the ISS, NASA officials thought.

Before the ISS launch in April 2021: Mark Vande Hei (from left) Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov in Baikonur.Photo: Roscosmos/Reuters

But then, on the second day of the war, Rogozin threatened: “If the West blocks cooperation with us, who will prevent the ISS from crashing out of control and falling on the United States?”

A 500-tonne structure, after more than 20 years of peaceful international research, would become an instrument of intimidation at Rogozin’s will. In response, Elon Musk posted the logo for his company SpaceX. The only problem: the flight control of the ISS is in Russia.

Now it is clear that the program on board the ISS will be reduced to a minimum. NASA still assumes that its astronaut will return to Earth in a Soyuz spacecraft at the end of March. But Kelly was already telling her colleague Vande Hei to think, “If you want to keep me there, I’ll find my way home.”

The ISS needs several repairs.

An alternative is difficult: there is currently no rocket for return operations and no astronauts who have completed the training for it. That is why NASA as an institution is extremely cautious.
Even without the war in Ukraine, Russian engineers warned some time ago that the aging of the ISS could cause major problems in the near future. The main weaknesses are the on-board computer system and the steering nozzles.

The computers on the ISS are not only responsible for automatic flight control, but also for the docking and undocking of the manned capsules and the transport spacecraft. All hardware is already running well beyond its originally intended lifespan.

The control system consists of two main thrusters, which are necessary when it is necessary to raise the orbit of the orbiting station at regular intervals. There are also 32 smaller units. All are exposed to severe corrosion from frequent contact with rocket fuel.

Western supplies needed for hi-tech components

Regardless of Rogozin’s decisions, the risk of a collapse increases if the modernization is not carried out in a timely manner. And Russia cannot do this alone. Western supplies are needed, particularly for high-tech components.
Regarding the return of the American astronaut, the Russian Space Agency announced on Monday: “Roskosmos has never given its partners any reason to doubt our reliability.”

German Matthias Maurer is also on board the ISS. He should be relieved by now.

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ISS space station: a return to Earth in 90 minutes
The birth of the International Space Station (ISS) dates back to January 29, 1998. There, the USA and Russia signed the ISS contract. Almost ten months later, on November 20, 1998, the first module of the ISS blasted off into space. Starting in the year 2000, the station was inhabited for the first time, resulting in the most expensive residential community in the world. Since then, the ISS has been doing research more than 218 kilometers from Earth, for example in space, biotechnology and physics. The station takes 90 minutes to orbit the earth. In order not to lose too much muscle in weightlessness, astronauts must exercise for two hours a day. So far, 240 astronauts from 19 countries have been on board. The first all-female spacewalk was in 2019. The most famous German on the ISS is Alexander Gerst. (Eric Matt)

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