Well that's not very nice at all.
Things between Russia and the United States are a little... complicated at the moment due to tensions over the Ukraine/Crimea situation. NASA relies on the Russians to get American astronauts to and from the ISS, but a Russian Deputy Prime Minister has suggested maybe we should be using a trampoline instead. Wait. That won't work, will it?
Space is happening, friends.
The new crew of the ISS Expedition 39 will launch to the space station today, and you can watch it right here with live coverage beginning at 4:14PM EDT. New Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov, Steve Swanson, and Oleg Artemyev will launch today on the Soyuz TMA-12M.
Hey, remember when NASA could launch humans into space all by themselves?
Today at 4:58PM EDT, the crew of Expeditions 37 and 38 will launch to the International Space Station on board a Soyuz TMA-10M from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and you can watch NASA's live stream coverage right here. Meanwhile, the Cygnus capsule that was sent to the ISS last week will have to wait to dock. Take that, Cygnus.
Late last night, the first manned Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the plains of Kazakhstan, headed for the International Space Station. With traditional Russian badassery, the launch took place in the midst of a massive snow storm. While trips to the ISS have become rather hum-drum news, the crash of an unmanned Progress resupply ship in August kept the international space community on edge for weeks.
But as @AngryBirds revealed, the rocket was carrying more than just astronauts.
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.
Today saw the successful first flight of a Russian-made Soyuz
rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA)
launch site in popular French South American colonial holding French Guiana
. The liftoff was the first time a Soyuz rocket has blasted off from any location other than the six launchpads operated by the Russian Space Agency, and took place in a newly constructed facility at the Guiana Space Centre (GSC)
For the ESA, the flight bolsters the status of the GSC as a major player in space flight. It also works to cement relations between Russia and the ESA, giving both organizations access to an extremely reliable launch vehicle in the Soyuz and an ideal equatorial launch site. So ideal that the Soyuz realized a nearly 50% boost in efficiency thanks to the Earth's spin, allowing the rocket to carry three tons into space instead of the normal 1.7 tons when launched from the traditional home of the rocket.
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
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.
The International Space Station
is slated for a watery death, sunk into one of Earth's oceans. The Russian Space Agency has announced its intention to sink the ISS sometime after 2020, once it has reached the end of its operable time. The decision to sink the ISS was made because leaving it in space would pose a risk of debris left in orbit and such "space junk" can be problematic.
The ISS was launched in 1998 and was intended to operate for 15 years (until 2013) however, an agreement was recently reached that should keep it functioning until 2020. By sinking into oceanic oblivion the ISS will follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Russian space station Mir
, which was sunk into the Pacific Ocean in 2001 after 15 years in space.