A damaged Soyuz space capsule returned from the International Space Station (ISS) today without a crew. At 7:46 am EDT (5:46 pm local time), the descent module of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft made an automated parachute ground landing in Kazakhstan.
Today’s touchdown is the latest chapter in a drama that began on December 14, 2022 when a leak was detected in the coolant system of the Soyuz capsule that carried NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin to the ISS in September 2022.
A preliminary investigation suggested that the craft had been damaged by a micrometeorite strike, leaving a 0.8-mm hole in the external cooling radiator located on the service module. It was determined that the Soyuz was not safe for the astronauts to use to return to Earth, so the launch schedules were juggled and a rescue craft, Soyuz M-23, was sent to the ISS on February 26. The stranded crew are slated to return this September.
Normally, an uncrewed spacecraft from the ISS would be allowed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, but Roscosmos wanted the descent module intact to help in its investigation of the incident.