Are there any protocols the space station (or any space explorer) follows if there is a massive catastrophe on Earth where the responsive parties on the ground would not be available for support/control?

Something like large scale nuclear war or natural disaster where communication and satellites are inoperable or there’s no one left to communicate with?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter at that point, but what would they do?

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    $\begingroup$ There are some contingency plans not worth making. This is one such. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2017 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough, perhaps this is a dumb question. I wonder what they would do though. I guess nothing. Just watch the destruction from their windows. $\endgroup$
    – ElScorcho
    Oct 28, 2017 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ There was a space shuttle flight rule addressing what to do if nuclear war broke out during the countdown. Don't know about ISS. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2017 at 2:32

2 Answers 2


What should the ISS astronauts do? Staying longer on ISS is not possible without supply from Earth. Returning to Earth may be done without ground control, but after landing the astronauts would definitly need help to leave the Soyuz capsule and to return from the landing spot in the desert. Just after landing, the fitness of the astronauts is much worse than before their start to the ISS.


I don't know, but I'd be surprised if there's anything they could do to help continue civilization or our species. The ISS doesn't have nearly enough people or resources for that.

  • $\begingroup$ Why the downvotes? This is the correct answer. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Oct 28, 2017 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ It occurred to me after answering that the question was really about how the ISS personnel would help themselves. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2017 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: Because it's just stating the most trivial guess that anyone could give without attempting any real backup for it, examining it in detail, or doing anything at all worth making an authoritative reference. If the answer to the question is, in fact, exactly as obvious as this it wasn't worth asking. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2017 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanTuggy The obvious needs no reference. It's obvious that bees make honey; no reference required. Similarly, it's obvious that the handful of people on the ISS, having meager resources and no self sufficiency, could do little to help the billions on Earth. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2017 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ @WayneConrad: Like I said: "If the answer to the question is, in fact, exactly as obvious as this it wasn't worth asking." Or answering, for that matter. "What happens is exactly what anyone would expect" is a lousy answer to (possibly) a lousy question. Stack Exchange is not in the business of collecting thunderingly obvious observations, and this answer fits poorly within "a library of detailed answers". $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2017 at 6:10

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