Thursday, November 03, 2011

Russia delivers the goods to I.S.S. in flawless fashion

The critical supply line for delivering both crews and supplies to the International Space Station has been restored following Wednesday’s arrival of the Russian Progress 45 cargo craft.

"We have been under some uncertainty," U.S. station commander Mike Fossum told NASA TV. "This is a huge step that helps clear the Soyuz rocket of any underlying problems." NASA TV said, "The entire journey was automated and flawless.” Progress docked at 1141 GMT, delivering 2.8 tons of food, fuel, oxygen and other supplies to the station. Included in the cargo was a shipment of iPads, intended to supplement the crew’s entertainment options, which already include iPods.

The crew of Expedition 29 quickly got to work unpacking the cargo carrier, a $100-billion project funded by 16 nations which orbits about 240 miles above Earth. According to NASA, Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov also spent some time Thursday gathering and packing items for return to Earth. The trio is scheduled to undock from the station in the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on Nov. 21.
Remaining aboard the station will be the Expedition 30 crew of Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who are currently scheduled to launch to the orbiting complex aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 no earlier than Nov.13, beginning their stay on the station Nov. 16. The successful three-day automated flight and docking clears the way for a resumption of manned space launches. The loss of the previous Progress cargo flight on August 24 grounded all launches of Russia's workhorse Soyuz rocket over safety concerns and forced staffing levels to be cut on the space station.
The I.S.S. is a $100-billion project funded by 16 nations which orbits about 240 miles above Earth. Following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, the Russian Soyuz became the sole means of transporting crews to the station. NASA pays about $350 million a year for the service, and is funding the development work of several U.S.-based private companies, hoping to have a viable crew transport option which would end the Russian monopoly on station crew ferry flights by 2017.

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