Questions and Answers: What will become of Gerst after Soyuz crash?

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Gerst and his crew on the ISS now have to improvise – maybe the German has to stay longer in space. (Photo: dpa)

Friday, October 12, 2018

The false start of the Russian Soyuz rocket shakes up the deployment plans on the International Space Station ISS. Instead of five astronauts, for the time being only three at 400 kilometers altitude above ground are working: the German commander Alexander Gerst, Serena Aunon-Chancellor from the USA and Sergei Prokopjew from Russia. The space agencies in Russia, the USA and Europe must urgently reschedule. Questions and answers. Is the supply of spacemen secured on the ISS? Yes, nobody will have to starve and thirst. "The supply of food and other consumables on the ISS is not enough until the scheduled arrival of the next crew," said a representative of Russian space travel. Gerst and his crew could manage their supplies with "reasonable consumption" even until April. A flight scheduled for the end of October for a Russian Progress space freighter is scheduled to be moved to December. But also American or Japanese freighters can supply the station.How does the failure of the two astronauts Nick Hague and Alexey Owtschinin on planned field operations from? Whether with the unplanned smaller crew still field operations are possible, is unclear, says Jan Wörner, head of the European Space Agency ESA. He assumed that such missions would be postponed unless they were absolutely necessary. Gerst was supposed to get off to open space on October 19th and October 25th. Now he lacks his partner Nick Hague from the USA. For safety, the spacemen always work in pairs. The Russian side has already postponed the next fieldwork under their responsibility. Prokopyev can not get off without Alexei Ovchinin. The postponement of this mission weighs heavily, as the duo was to examine the enigmatic leak on the docked spaceship "Soyuz-MS09". The drill hole of unknown origin is sealed, but it caused a drop in pressure on the ISS. How is the station going on with the scientific work? There will be delays in science experiments on the outpost of humanity. "It's one thing if there are five or six people on board, and another, if there are only three," says biomedical scientist Oleg Orlov from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Nevertheless, the entire planned program will be processed – just slower. "That's not tragic." Gerst was supposed to return to Earth in mid-December. Will he be with his family for Christmas? More about the prospects are uncertain. It depends on how quickly Roskosmos can clarify the cause of the accident for the otherwise reliable Soyuz-FG launch vehicle. For now, the Russian space agency has stopped manned launches. The complicated ISS timetable with the replacement of half of the long-term crews is confused. Russia, however, is trying to bring forward the next manned launch scheduled for December 20th to end November. Oleg Kononenko (Russia), David Saint-Jacques (Canada) and Anne McClain (USA) are preparing for this mission. Then the ISS crew would be complete. But a real replacement for Gerst and his crew would bring only the next but one flight. Therefore, his mission might drag on into the next year – but surely the delay is not. Would it bother him? Space enthusiasts like the 42-year-old geophysicist from Künzelsau count the days in space, not those on earth.



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