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Russia rejects NASA proposal to hold off on using SpaceX Dragon to retrieve stranded astronauts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and Russian space agencies may seek help from SpaceX to use its Crew Dragon spacecraft to rescue astronauts stranded on the International Space Station due to damaged Soyuz spacecraft, according to recent reports. However, Roscosmos confirmed yesterday that they do not need SpaceX’s help.

On December 15, 2022, the Soyuz spacecraft MS-22 began to leak a large amount of coolant into space, which may have been caused by a micrometeorite impact. That has forced U.S. and Russian space agency officials to consider emergency rescue plans to bring the two Russian cosmonauts, as well as NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, back to Earth.

Russia’s refusal to accept SpaceX’s help underscores U.S.-Russian tensions in space, as NASA no longer relies solely on Russian spacecraft to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

Late last year, NASA had contacted SpaceX to ask if the company could act to help in an emergency situation using a manned Dragon spacecraft. But Russian space agencies rejected plans to return the country’s cosmonauts to Earth aboard the manned Dragon spacecraft, according to Russian media reports.

According to unconfirmed plans, the MS-22 spacecraft would return to Earth without a crew, while the MS-23 spacecraft would be launched to the International Space Station in February with only one pilot on board, Oleg Kononenko, to leave enough room for two cosmonauts stranded in space.

Under the plan, Rubio will return on a SpaceX spacecraft, which can deliver astronauts to the International Space Station on U.S. soil, greatly reducing the U.S.’s reliance on Russian spacecraft, which were the only way to send astronauts into space after the space shuttle was retired in 2011.

The final rescue plan has not yet been finalized. It is reported that the Russian space agency director Yuri Borisov (Yuri Borisov) will make a final decision later this week.

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