Real-Life ‘Gravity’: Soyuz Technical Problem Delays Russian-US Crew’s Arrival


The Russian-US crew’s arrival in their docking with the International Space Station was expected to happen Wednesday, but their Russian Soyuz spacecraft experienced a technical problem, which delayed the docking and created a real-life Gravity situation that worried people all over the world. The three-man crew made of Steven Swanson, American astronaut from NASA and two Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev will now orbit the Earth 34 times before they reach the international space laboratory.

A real-life Gravity situation occurred during the Russian-US crew’s space trip when the Russian Soyuz spacecraft experienced a technical problem which delayed their arrival in their docking with the International Space Station. The team took off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a night-time launch, but the issue appeared after the spacecraft was already in orbit, ready to take the crew on the ISS in just six hours. However, due to the fact that the Soyuz “was unable to complete its third thruster burn to fine-tune its approach” to the ISS, the docking cannot take place until Friday. NASA issued a statement with regard to the unfortunate event and stated that “rendezvous experts are reviewing the plan, and may update it later as necessary.”

What Went Wrong

The Russian Soyuz experienced a technical problem which delayed the Russian-US crew’s arrival in their docking with the ISS, issue which sounded like a real-life Gravity, since the trio now has to orbit the Earth 34 times before safely arriving on the International Space Station. NASA spokesman Josh Byerly stated in an update that “the crew is fine,” but at the same time the ground teams are trying to find out what happened to the Soyuz and “what caused the [engine] burn to be skipped.”

The American agency announced that Russian engineers are still unsure if the problem was caused by a mechanical malfunction or a software glitch, but judging from the conversations between flight controllers in Houston and Moscow, it seems that the Soyuz could have been in an improper orientation for the engine burn as previously planned.

Although Byerly added that the exact time of the docking could change, the crew has enough supplies for more than two days. The problem is being looked at, but a technical nature seems to be a possible response to the ground teams’ questions. A standard six-hour trip to the ISS includes four orbits of the Earth and it needs four major engine burn maneuvers made automatically by the Russian Soyuz.

After the team of three reaches the International Space Station, they will spend approximately six months in space and their mission will bridge the crew of Expedition 39 and 40. The Russian-US crew will be welcomed on board of the ISS by Expedition 29’s crew, namely Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio.

Irrespective of the political problems happening between Russia and the United States, the two countries must remain united in space, especially since NASA retired its space shuttle flee three years ago and it depends on the Russian Soyuz vehicles to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station. A real-life Gravity situation is happening at the moment, because a technical problem with the Russian Soyuz is responsible for delaying the Russian-US crew’s arrival  in their docking with the International Space Station until Friday.

By Gabriela Motroc


The Sydney Morning Herald


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