The Mary Sue


Russian Soyuz Rocket Successfully Blasts Off, Lifting Fears of Unmanning the International Space Station

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.

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Technology Waits For No Man, Not Even A Computer Programmer

The world of technology waits for nothing. It’s probably not news to you that we’re innovating, creating and developing new technologies faster and faster as years go by. For example, new interfaces can lead to entirely new ways to interact with objects, both domestically and otherwise. But even with the accelerated growth in the technology sector that we’ve seen just during our lifetimes, trying to actually gauge that from our own perspective is almost impossible. We’re just too close to the action. Perhaps, then, a story of my childhood, my father the computer programmer and Wolfenstein 3D can successfully relate just how quickly things manage to move and how little we often recognize it ourselves. Sometimes, it takes the experience of watching it happen to another person in order to fully appreciate the circumstances we live in.

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Historic SpaceX Flight to International Space Station Delayed Until December

Private space company SpaceX has announced that the landmark flight of its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station will have to be postponed until at least December 19th, 2011. The flight, which would mark the first time a privately owned spacecraft docked with the ISS, was originally slated for November 3rd of this year. The Dragon flight is being rescheduled due to the uncertainty surrounding the safety of the Russian launch system after a Progress drone crashed during an automated resupply mission to the space station. It sounds like until the situation is resolved, and the spectre of leaving the ISS unoccupied subsides, the Dragon will have to take a back seat.

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Russian Space Agency Has Lead in Rocket Crash

According to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, the Russian space agency has determined what caused the crash of an automated Progress resupply ships en route to the International Space Station. If true, this could head off a scenario in which the ISS would have to be unmanned due to the limited 200 day rating on the Soyuz spaceships currently docked at the station. The Russian article states that the committee assigned to investigating the crash has determined that a malfunction in the rocket's third engine caused the crash. Specifically, a fault with the engine's gas generator. This is fast work, especially considered that the committee was formed only four days ago. However, the article does not say if the problem has been resolved in future rocket launches. Despite these recent problems, the Universe Today notes that Russian rockets have an otherwise sterling launch record. Since their introduction, the cargo-carrying Soyuz-U has 745 success and 21 failures, and the manned Soyuz-FG has had all of its 25 launches reach orbit successfully. With a lead on the source of the problem, all eyes will surely be on a commercial launch scheduled for October 8. If that and subsequent launches go well, then it could be smooth sailing for the ISS. (via Universe Today, image via Wikipedia)

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The International Space Station May Be Unmanned By November

The failure of an automated Russian Progress resupply ship to the International Space Station has raised the ugly spectre of having to temporarily abandon the station. At issue is not supplies, as the shuttle mission STS-135 brought up a cargo container filled to the brim. Instead, NASA may be forced to bring down the ISS crew without a replacement because of the lifespan of the Soyuz spaceships. These ships, long the workhorse of the Russian Space Agency, have a lifespan of only 200 days. In the case of the ships currently docked at the ISS, they are only rated through mid-November. If the problem that caused the Progress to crash is not discovered and fixed prior to the mid-November deadline, there will be no crew to replace the existing one. The problem is compounded by the fact that all Soyuz landings need to take place in Kazakstan in the daylight, further limiting opportunities to return the crew to Earth.

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