International Space Station Re-Supply Ship Falling Back to Earth

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International Space Station
An unmanned Russian spacecraft that was sent to re-supply the International Space Station experienced some problems after the launch and is now falling back down to Earth. The capsule, which contained over three tons of food, water, and fuel, will fall back down through the Earth’s atmosphere by May 7 at the latest. Flight controllers lost contact with the capsule shortly after it left the Earth’s atmosphere, and after a day of trying to take back control of the craft was declared a total loss.

The International Space Station currently is home to six residents. They were counting on this resupply capsule and now it appears as though they will be waiting a little longer. The program, of course, has planned for these types of situations and the crew is not currently in any type of dire situation.

The Russian Federal Space Agency announced  that the capsule that was set to re-supply the International Space Station, named Progress, will be re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Progress will be burning in the atmosphere between May 5 and May 7. The original plan for the craft was that it would burn up in the atmosphere after it had re-supplied the International Space Station, but it would not be still carrying the supplies that were originally meant to be delivered. The craft will still be carrying very expensive equipment and fuel that were needed on the International Space Station.

The ship did launch successfully from Kazakhstan on Tuesday morning, but the craft failed to unfold its antennas so mission control was not able to control the craft. Their was also evidence to suggest a small explosion affected the craft shortly after take-off. Currently, the International Space Station has a four-month supply of food and other essential supplies. The space agencies of the world typically will plan for the worst-case-scenario and are usually prepared for this type of set back.

The next re-supply capsule is set to launch in June, but if something happens to the next craft then things could become worrisome for the crew. After June the next re-supply mission is not set until mid-August, and by then, the crew will have burned through its reserve food. This would not be the first time that the International Space Station was affected by a food shortage. In 2004, after the Columbia disaster, there was a hiatus on all space travel and the crew were forced to eat stripped-down-diets in order to conserve food. When the capsule finally did arrive the crew was down to only a few weeks of food.

The crew would run out of food well before they run out of water or oxygen. The water that is used on the International Space Station is all recycled from used water and waste. The biggest problem, however, with the re-supplies are not the fact that the craft has failed but who will be re-supplying the space station. The European Space Agency has ended its role as a re-supplier for the station. NASA has contracts with two independent companies to supply the station, but after Orbital Sciences Corporation’s rocket exploded on a launch pad last October it is unclear if they will be able to send any supply capsules. As the International Space Station’s re-supply ship falls back to Earth NASA will try to keep the re-supply capsules coming.

By James Dixson

Irish Examiner
Photo By:  STS-122 Shuttle Crew, NASA – Creativecommons Flickr License

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