Damaged Soyuz Capsule Lands Back on Earth from ISS

A damaged Russian Soyuz MS-22 capsule landed back on Earth on March 28, three months after coolant began leaking from the craft while it was docked at the International Space Station (ISS).

The module completed the almost two-hour return from the ISS without a crew, landing in the Kazakh steppe on the afternoon of March 28, a few hundred kilometers from the Baikonur cosmodrome, home to Russia’s space launches.

A significant coolant leak was discovered in the capsule last December — caused by a 0.8-millimeter hole in its outer skin.

A tiny meteorite is likely to have pierced the structure while it was docked, experts said. Images captured from the exterior of the ISS showed coolant fluid spewing into space, while Roscosmos said temperatures at one point rose to 30 C inside the capsule.

The leaks prompted Roscosmos and NASA to rearrange their schedules and postpone space walks.

Russia sent a back-up capsule — the MS-23 — to the ISS in February and decided to bring the damaged MS-22 back to Earth without a crew.

The Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut who were due to return to Earth in March will now stay on the ISS until September.

Roscosmos said the capsule returned on March 28 with 218 kilograms of cargo, including the results of scientific experiments and equipment from the station that would be analyzed on Earth or reused in future missions.

Washington and Moscow have maintained cooperation in space despite relations hitting their lowest in decades, with astronauts stationed together at the ISS, and also ferried back and forth jointly.

Russia has said it will quit the ISS and launch its own independent space station at some time in the future.