At 6:11 AM (EDT) an unmanned Progress
resupply ship blasted off aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket
from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, marking the first successful Progress launch since a crash this past August. The successful launch, designated Progress 45
, is a welcome relief not only for the Russian space agency, but observers around the world as it points to the resumption of manned flights to the International Space Station
later this year.
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, Russian Soyuz rockets are currently the only way for fresh crews and supplies to be ferried to the ISS. After August's crash, all future manned flights were grounded. This placed the ISS in a precarious position since although it had been fully stocked with supplies, the Russian spacecraft currently docked at the station have a limited lifespan of 200 days. Meaning that NASA and the other ISS member nations faced the odious possibility of having to bring the current ISS crew back to Earth before the Soyuz situation could be resolved and a new crew sent to the station, temporarily abandoning it. Thankfully, that scenario now seems highly unlikely.