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  • 1440 Daily Digest

Space Rescue Mission

Russian space agency Roscosmos said yesterday it would launch an uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft to retrieve three astronauts who became stranded on the International Space Station after their transport vehicle was damaged in December.

One of Russia's standard Soyuz spacecraft, the vehicle successfully launched and docked at the space station in September, the first step of a six-month mission. The crew was forced to scratch a planned spacewalk in mid-December after a stream of white particles was observed ejecting from the docked spacecraft (see video). Preliminary evaluation suggests a micrometeoroid—tiny rocks, typically asteroid fragments traveling at high speeds—punched a quarter-inch hole in the vehicle's external cooling system.

Officials said the crew is not in any immediate danger and will remain aboard the ISS, while the damaged vessel will return to Earth uncrewed. The rescue spacecraft is expected to launch Feb. 20.

Read about the related issue of dangerous space debris here.

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