Last month, a Soyuz MS-22 capsule docked at the International Space Station sprang a tiny leak, suspected to be the result of a meteoroid hit. Although Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, said the astronaut and two cosmonauts who flew to the ISS in September in that capsule—American Frank Rubio and Russians Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin—were all fine and not in any immediate danger, they're now sending a rescue Soyuz MS-23 on Feb. 20 to bring those three home, reports Reuters.
That's because officials grew concerned that if an emergency did crop up at the ISS, not all of the astronauts there—there are currently seven, per the Guardian—would be able to be evacuated. Roscosmos is wary of using the damaged MS-22 capsule to bring astronauts home, as the radiator coolant leak has led to higher temperatures in its cabin. There's one other "escape pod" docked at the space station, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, but it seats just four people.
Roscosmos says that if an emergency goes down before the MS-23's February launch, they'll circle back on whether the damaged MS-22 could be reused safely. If the MS-23 does arrive as planned, the astronauts will climb aboard that capsule to return to Earth, though it's not clear when, and the damaged MS-22 will head back to its home planet without a crew, the space agency says. Phys.org notes that Roscosmos came to its decision after conferring with NASA, according to Roscosmos chief Yuri Borisov, who says NASA was in agreement with its rescue plan. (Read more International Space Station stories.)