Saturday, March 12, 2022

No, Russia Is Not Threatening to Leave an Astronaut on the ISS

Just to be clear, I've seen this story in a dozen places, like yesterday on ZeroHedge, and while there are many sources it's not worth looking them all up.  It all stems back to the cascade of tweets from Dmitry Rogozin at Roscosmos, that we talked about most of the first week of the month (Friday 3/4).  This week, the threats have centered on "abandoning" astronaut Mark Vande Hei currently on the station. Vande Hei is scheduled to return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule at the end of this month, landing in Kazakhstan.  NASA officials are expected to be there to greet him and bring him back to the United States.  This is all pretty routine.

Eric Berger at Ars Technica has done a bit more research and digs out an important detail:

The source of this "news" appears to be a video published more than a week ago by a Kremlin-aligned publication, RIA Novosti. Roscosmos TV provided footage for the video, but in sharing it acknowledged that the video was a "joke." Now, this is an exceptionally poor joke given the tensions on Earth, but it is important to understand that sharing a video a week ago does not mean Russia is threatening to leave Vande Hei behind. Nothing has changed since the video was posted.

The first link is a Twitter thread from Katya Pavlushchenko, dated March 5th, which is worth looking at, including the video from RIA Novosti.  The second link is in Russian, so I'll take their word that it said the whole thing was a lame joke.  Granted it might make Rogin look good to his home audience. 

As we've been discussing here all along, NASA has said "Operations have not changed at all," and will probably end up talking about it in a previously scheduled press conference on Monday March 14th at 2PM EDT.  That conference is to discuss some spacewalks aimed at improving the ISS that are set for Tuesday 3/15 and the following Wednesday 3/26.   

All of that is not to say that everything is just completely peachy keen with Roscosmos.  

Space News, for example, tallied up 16 commercial launches that had been scheduled to fly on the Russian Soyuz rocket during the next two years. These payloads are now stranded, affecting customers ranging from the private company OneWeb, to the European Commission, to the government of Sweden. And the joint Europe-Russia probe scheduled to launch to Mars this year, ExoMars, will be delayed for years and may very well be canceled, sources say.  

As we're half a month into the war in Ukraine, it's impossible to call where this goes.  I don't think anyone can realistically call what Putin is going to do about this.  Yes, it's income for the country and it may be viewed with national pride by Russians.  It could be, however, that if Putin decides to end Russian participation in the International Space Station it makes him look even stronger to some people and is good politics for him personally.

The important point is that the Mark Vande Hei isn't going to be abandoned on the ISS with no way down, and the ISS isn't going to de-orbit.  We went into the re-boosting issue in the first week.  There's currently a Crew Dragon spacecraft docked to the ISS, and while there are more astronauts on the ISS than it could handle, I bet that if they asked any of the Crew-3 astronauts if they'd wait on the station longer and give up their seat for Vande Hei's ride home, all of that could be worked out.  I know SpaceX has just been awarded contracts for more three more crewed NASA missions to the ISS since Boeing's Starliner is still incapable of flight.  The next manned mission for NASA is Crew-4, currently set for no earlier than (NET) 15 April and the crews typically will switch out with a brief period together on the ISS.  Before that, however, SpaceX will also carry the first totally commercial crew to the station for Axiom, NET March 30 at 2:46PM EDT.  

It wouldn't surprise me if SpaceX built another Crew Dragon faster than almost anyone would expect and offers a custom ride to get Mark Vande Hei down.    

The Russian Nauka module last July, just before docking with ISS - and then knocking it off it's desired orbital attitude.  


  1. They had problems docking to the MIR when it was up. Somebody tried to manually dock a Progress, and blew it. Really caused some damage and made them abandon one of the sections of the MIR. Michael Foale was onboard at the time and said it got pretty scary.

  2. Russia holding a US Astronaut "hostage" like that is not likely...not impossible but not probable. Doesn't change the fact that the USA should NEVER have become dependent on Russia in any way for access to space.

  3. There you go, nuking a perfectly good Internet pile of crap just because it doesn't relate to any verifiable facts.

    Where's the Alex Jones/George Noury right-wing trailer park lunatard posse going to get their marching orders from if you demand common sense and critical thinking skills?

    At least give them half(wit) credit for knowing there's an American astronaut on the ISS (even though they couldn't find that on a map). ;)

    1. It's the mostly Left (and some "Right") neo-cons who are hyperventialting and spewing spittle over Russia these days.

      The right-wing trailer park trash like me are opening a beer, sitting back, and popping the popcorn, watching the soy crowd advocate for war and thinking there is no way in hell we would re-up or re-enlist for this nonsense. You couldn't drag me onto the flight deck for this shit.

    2. BTW, speaking of halfwit, the ISS is an orbiting space station. It isn't on any map.

    3. And you thought the wink ;) when I wrote that meant...what, exactly?
      Of course it's not on a map.

      The Gilligan is strong on both sides of the aisle right now.
      And unless someone 70 IQ point higher than Gropey Alzheimer's is running things, they're not bright enough to send a couple of ODAs in on the QT with orders to snoop (but not poop), and absolutely not to shoot at anything, which is the most I'd do at this point.

      We've already got a war; the trick is not to get into it ourselves.

      No way in hell should we get into this overtly unless it slops across borders and into NATO territory.

      Puton (not a typo) pops a nuke or starts dropping chem rounds, however, and all bets are off. Given Russian performance thus far, if NATO gets attacked, even inadvertently, Germany and half of E. Europe are liable to steal a march and start taking names pro-actively.

    4. Missed the wink, of course. Too many right parens in close proximity.

    5. BTW, NATO is already feeding info to the Ukrainians.

      "Thanks to the radar intelligence from America and NATO, the Ukrainians have been successfully keeping Russian planes out of the sky. This is potentially very dangerous of course, as the Russians are faced with a dilemma. They either have to accept this situation where their air force is grounded or they will take action against these early warning planes, which risks escalating the current war into full Russia-NATO collision. Reportedly the Ukrainians are even using American intelligence to deliver highly accurate artillery fire against Russian forces. It is without a doubt, both the intelligence and weapon systems that NATO is providing to Ukraine are seriously annoying the Russian leadership. If Russia’s war effort becomes bogged down, if progress is too slow or if Russian forces are suffer greater than acceptable losses, I am confident Russia will try to do something to force NATO to end these activities."

      Some of us might consider that an act of war BY NATO and the US, if not a continuation of the provocations that helped kick this thing off. If NATO and the US aren't careful, the Russians just may do something about that.

    6. 1) I took it for granted that NATO and the US have been, are feeding, and will continue to feed the Ukes real-time sat intel updates, 24/7, just like the US stayed officially neutral, but gave the UK 100% intel on the Argies in the Falklands starting five minutes after it kicked off.

      2) Russia can't handle even Ukraine.
      With what we've seen, the last thing they want to do now is pick a fight with NATO. They'd be on their ass in about two alpha strikes, and defenseless, and they'd have to either unleash global thermonuclear war, knowing what was coming right back at them five minutes later, or deliver Puton's severed, bleeding, and still-warm head, on a platter, as a peace offering. Otherwise NATO would probably be dictating terms from the Urals, and Russia, as we know it, would be pushed out of Europe entirely, probably for centuries. Even if Puton doesn't know that, their generals are under no illusions.

      3) They may elect to behead Puton anyways, blame him for the whole thing, apologize profusely, and beg for a return to the economic status quo ante.

      4) If they chose anything else, they'll be eating a mouthful of rocks, in a fine pastry shell of ashes and fecal matter. At least with just Ukraine to contend with, the crap they're eating is soft-serve.

  4. Actually, It's on a NASA virtual map.