I didn’t even know that we had an astronaut on the International Space Station, but we did, and the good news is that the Russians won’t be leaving him there.
Roscosmos, the Russian state space agency, has announced that they will not be stranding United States astronaut Mark Vande Hei on the International Space Station (or ISS) While this would seem like a bizarre statement to have to make (via the Russian state-owned news outlet TASS, no less) even just a few months ago, this is the world we now live in. Vande Hei, a former US Army officer and highly experienced astronaut and engineer, has been aboard the International Space Station since April 2021. Last year, he had his assignment extended in duration for another six months, and recently broke the record for the longest stay in space by an American astronaut. However, mounting tension between Russia and well, a whole lot of other countries in the world, led to some doubt whether the plan for Vande Hei to leave the station via Russian transport would be honored.
Of course, we all knew they’d let him go. It’s not as if Russia is the kind of country that would murder astronauts or blow up babies, after all. Well, maybe they’d do the latter, but only because mass graves are easier to ignore than dead astronauts drifting through space.
But that’s not what caught my eye about this particular article. Apparently, the author dislikes Elon Musk about as much as I do.
The International Space Station was launched in 1998 as a five-part collaborative effort by the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and a conglomerate of European nations. For the 23 years it has been in operation, it has been a marker of relatively benevolent international cooperation and goodwill. Unfortunately, we live in an increasingly bizarre world where the planet’s richest man (whose best long-term idea has been “a subway, but real fast”) uses social media to challenge the President of Russia to single combat. For the record, an estimated three million refugees have fled Ukraine during the ongoing invasion by Russian forces, while Elon Musk makes bear and flamethrower jokes about it.
As a true gesture of good will, I suggest we let Musk take Mark Vande Hei’s place.
Akira MacKenzie says
What is it with this guy and flamethrowers!?
Only sans space station… or space suit for that matter.
Jason Nishiyama says
The more I hear from Elon Musk, the more he starts to sound like a Bond villain…
Russia hardly has a monopoly on blowing up babies or putting people into mass graves.
Fun fact: The Russians had been planning to replace the 1967 Souyz spacecraft with a reusable lifting body vehicle (Klipr) with a mass between 14-17 tons (depending on the version with parachutes or wings) but after the oligarchs had looted the treasury there was not enough money.
-Even before the fall of the Soviet Union the Russians had panned to replace the workhorse Proton rocket (the fuel is extremely toxic and carcinogenic) with the Angara family of rockets, some of which would be reusable. Once again, the kleptocracy made it impossible to develop something more modern.
Ray Ceeya says
So this actually happened before. Sergei Krikalev was stranded on Mir in 1991/’92. He was up in space and his whole country dissolved. If I recall correctly, he was there for over a year. We killed the space shuttle and Orion isn’t ready yet so we gotta hope Space-X, Blue Origin, Virgin, etc. got their shit together. Come on Capitalism! Daddy needs a new pair of space boots.
I gather some Russian bigwig made threatening comments about Hei’s return trip. The good news is that he isn’t alone up there, he could stay a little longer, and I believe there are alternatives to using Russia, namely SpaceX has already delivered crew to ISS.
Musk proposed the ‘single combat’ duel. His fandom made the bear and flamethrower images following.
I find it interesting that an article about Space refers to Musk’s best idea as the subway tunnel thing when SpaceX, Musk’s other idea is now the only way to access space for American companies or astronauts. Even other European suppliers of space access capability use Russian rocket motors (but not all) which are now not available. Several launches and projects are now cancelled across the sector as Russia pulled their support in response to sanctions. Star Link, Musk’s other idea, owned by him and launched only by SpaceX is proving vital to Ukraine communications integrity. Musk is a royal pain in the ass but his ideas and more importantly his engineers and project people are producing some great stuff.
The international Space Station has several US astronauts on board but only one was slated to return via a Soyuz capsule to Kazakhstan. If needed he can return later via the Dragon capsule. It has been a fair question whether Russia would still allow it or NASA would let it happen. The head of Roscomos, the Russian equivalent of NASA, Dmitry Rogozin, has been blustering on Twitter that Russia may well pull out of the Space Station and disengage it’s Russian segment perhaps as well. The fool has threatened that without Russia, the Space Station would be deorbited either deliberately or via standard orbital degradation perhaps over the USA or Europe. Russia however would be safe as the Space Station only passes over about 1% of Russian territory. The lightly vailed threat to deorbit the station (including a map of at-risk land masses) over the USA or Europe puts him in total nuttier territory.
The Space Station requires the Soyuz to boost it into higher orbits from time to time. There is another docked module that can do it but hasn’t been tested yet (Cygnus) and SpaceX’s Dragon may be able to but isn’t designed for it and needs software upgrades to handle the oscillation affects that occur when the Station has thrust applied. Once this Soyuz departs, there remain questions weather Russia can get another crew back up there given the funding issues now occurring across the country.
Really? The International Space Station has been permanently crewed since ..decades … by both astronauts and cosmonauts together. (No Taikonauts though – explicitly not invited rather sadly I think.)
A lot more than one too :
Commandeed by a Russian :
FWIW and including a French astronaut, engineer and pilot from the European Space Agency. as well as Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, Germany’s Matthias Maurer, the USA’s Megan McArthur, Kayla Barron,Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari, Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei plus cosmnonauts Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov.
Wonder what it would be like up there hearing of events down here and how awkward that’s made things.. and they all have to work and live together in a very cramped space wher errors could prove fatal.
Incidentally, Mark Vande Hei has been up there for a new record long time :
Three hundred and forty days and counting..
Marcus Ranum says
Did you see where narcissist Musk challenged Putin to a man to man with Ukraine for stakes? There is so much to unpack there, and none of it looks good. But I’m pretty sure that it would be a great way of getting rid of Elon Musk for good.
Oh and this was noted on Colbert too .. who also mocked Musk and noted the awkward trip home in his monologue tonight (my time) / last night (American time) .
@9.Marcus Ranum : And maybe Putin too. Could we get lucky enough to have a duel where they both lose?
Same as when ex-Aussie PM, our second worst ever behind our current rancid excuse for an incumbent, threatened to “shirtfront” Vlad Putin. Predictably that didn’t happen either.
Walter Solomon says
Honestly, I’d rather have a real life Blofeld — even if he’s incredibly ignorant, greedy, inhumane, and offensive — than a modern day Hitler. As bad as Musk is, Putin is orders of magnitude worse. At this point, it’s best to just ignore Musk’s antics online as they’re largely irrelevant geopolitucally.
But it was funny when Julie Bishop, Australian Foreign Minister at the time did it instead. Politics aside, she is an intelligent person and it gave me no end of satisfaction to have seen her do that on camera depriving Abbott of the chance, if he was ever going to do it at all.
Reginald Selkirk says
Even better news from outer space:
NASA’s Webb Reaches Alignment Milestone, Optics Working Successfully
Reginald Selkirk says
How dare Musk? Putin is such a serious serious person.
Here’s how Vladimir Putin stole a Super Bowl ring from the Patriots’ Robert Kraft
Stavro Blofeld, Hugo Drax and Carl Stromberg were pretty clever blokes unlike that Putin feller.
They had visions beyond “get rich quick” or “grab lots of power”.
One might complain about their disregard for collateral damage but the same can be said of the US congresscritters (including establishment Democrats). The Rethugs have also caused great destruction but without creating a single hollowed-out volcano or orbital HQ to show for it.
On style points the Bond villains win without breaking a sweat.
Oumuamua is coming back and taking passengers?
That would be “good news from outer space” as opposed to “mild and mostly expected improvement in circumstances in low earth orbit.”
Ukraine fog of war; what is really happening?
@ Aussie Mike : Yup.
@ birgerjohansson : The Bond villains also have the advantage of being fictional not real here..
The International Space Station may not be Babylon 5 but its stil a good start and does some good science I think.
@ 8 StevoR
Dude, the actual record is like 100 days longer than that and set by a Russian nearly 30 years ago. You remind me of when the US was slapping itself on the back for putting the first woman in space – twenty years after Russia. The United States have always been also-rans when it comes to space. Pop quiz: Who had the…
– First artificial satellite?
– First animal in space?
– First man in space?
– First woman in space?
– First multi-person crew in space?
– First rendezvous of two crewed vehicles in space?
– First space station?
– First object on another world?
– First remote-controlled rover on another world?
– First pictures from the surface of another planet?
– First sample return from another world?
If your answer to any of the above is “United States”, no.
It’s good that common sense and cooperation seems to be prevailing when it comes to the International Space Station.
The Russians got an impressive list of space firsts in Soviet days, but for the last 30 years their space program has declined, and is now only a shadow of its former self. As pointed out in comment #4, this seems to largely be due to corruption. I’ve read that Russia made an agreement with China to work together in space a while back, rather than continuing to work with the US and Europe. Unfortunately for the Russians, I think they will be a junior partner in space to China just as they have become to the US, unless there’s a major change in how their space program is run.