Astronauts might have to abandon space station
2011-08-30 0:00

By Marcia Dunn | Google.com / AP




Astronauts may need to take the unprecedented step of temporarily abandoning the International Space Station if last week’s Russian launch accident prevents new crews from flying there this fall.

Until officials figure out what went wrong with Russia’s essential Soyuz rockets, there will be no way to launch any more astronauts before the current residents have to leave in mid-November.

The unsettling predicament comes just weeks after NASA’s final space shuttle flight.

"We have plenty of options," NASA’s space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, assured reporters Monday. "We’ll focus on crew safety as we always do."

Abandoning the space station, even for a short period, would be an unpleasant last resort for the world’s five space agencies that have spent decades working on the project. Astronauts have been living aboard the space station since 2000, and the goal is to keep it going until 2020.

Suffredini said flight controllers could keep a deserted space station operating indefinitely, as long as all major systems are working properly. The risk to the station goes up, however, if no one is on board to fix equipment breakdowns.

Six astronauts from three countries presently are living on the orbiting complex. Three are due to leave next month; the other three are supposed to check out in mid-November. They can’t stay any longer because of spacecraft and landing restrictions.

The Sept. 22 launch of the very next crew — the first to fly in this post-shuttle era — already has been delayed indefinitely. Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft have been the sole means of getting full-time station residents up and down for two years. The capsule is parked at the station until they ride it home.

To keep the orbiting outpost with a full staff of six for as long as possible, the one American and two Russians due to return to Earth on Sept. 8 will remain on board at least an extra week.

As for supplies, the space station is well stocked and could go until next summer, Suffredini said. Atlantis dropped off a year’s supply of goods just last month on the final space shuttle voyage. The unmanned craft destroyed Wednesday was carrying 3 tons of supplies.
For now, operations are normal in orbit, Suffredini noted, and the additional week on board for half the crew will mean additional science research.

The Soyuz has been extremely reliable over the decades; this was the first failure in 44 Russian supply hauls for the space station. Even with such a good track record, many in and outside NASA were concerned about retiring the space shuttles before a replacement was ready to fly astronauts.

Russian space officials have set up an investigation team and until it comes up with a cause for the accident and a repair plan, the launch and landing schedules remain in question. None of the spacecraft debris has been recovered yet; the wreckage fell into a remote, wooded section of Siberia. The third stage malfunctioned; a sudden loss of pressure apparently was noted between the engine and turbopump.

While a crew may well have survived such an accident because of safety precautions built into the manned version of the rocket, no one wants to take any chances.

One or two unmanned Soyuz launches are on tap for October, one commercial and the other another space station supply run. Those would serve as important test flights before putting humans on board, Suffredini said.

NASA considered vacating the space station before, following the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Back then, shuttles were still being used to ferry some station residents back and forth. Instead, the station got by with two-man crews for three years because of the significant cutback in supplies.

The space station’s population doubled in 2009, to six. It wasn’t until the space station was completed this year that science research finally took priority.

Even if the space shuttles still were flying, space station crews still would need Soyuz-launched capsules to serve as lifeboats, Suffredini said. The capsules are certified for no more than 6½ months in space, thus the need to regularly rotate crews. Complicating matters is the need to land the capsules during daylight hours in Kazakhstan, resulting in weeks of blackout periods.

NASA wants American private companies to take over crew hauls, but that’s three to five years away at best. Until then, Soyuz capsules are the only means of transporting astronauts to the space station.

Japan and Europe have their own cargo ships and rockets, for unmanned use only. Commercial front-runner Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, plans to launch a space station supply ship from Cape Canaveral at the end of November. That would be put on hold if no one is on board to receive the vessel.

Suffredini said he hasn’t had time to consider the PR impact of abandoning the space station, especially coming so soon after the end of the 30-year shuttle program.

"Flying safely is much, much more important than anything else I can think about right this instant," he said. "I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to discuss any political implications if we spend a lot of time on the ground. But you know, we’ll just have to deal with them because we’re going to do what’s safest for the crew and for the space station."



Article from: google.com



Also tune into:

Christopher Knight & Alan Butler - Civilization One, The Moon & The Megalithic Yard

Richard C. Hoagland - Comet Elenin as a Time Capsule, Norway Attack & The Messengers of Horus

Andy Lloyd - Comet Elenin, Nibiru & Planet X

Lloyd Pye - Starchild Skull DNA, Disclosure & Directed Panspermia

Terje Toftenes - The Day Before Disclosure & The New Paradigm

David Icke - The Cosmic Firewall & The Moon Matrix

Richard Dolan - The Secret Space Program & Breakaway Civilization

Paul A. LaViolette - Electrogravitics, Advanced Space Travel, Pulsars & Breakaway Civilization

Peter Levenda - Secret Space Program & NASA’s Nazis





Related Articles
Gagarin blasts off to ISS 50 years after 1st space flight
When the ISS meets Saturn
Russia: "We’ll dump the Int’l Space Station into the sea after 2020"
Papal call to the Space Station
Russian supply spacecraft misses Space Station for first time ever - spins out of reach (Video)
International Space Station Growth During 12 Years
NASA, USDA Sign Space Station Research Agreement


Latest News from our Front Page

Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
2016-04-28 20:10
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North. The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night. A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked. The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
2016-04-28 20:48
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough. Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield. Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
2016-04-27 2:23
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July. The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
2016-04-27 2:09
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown. The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent. He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
2016-04-25 23:10
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are. ... London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race. Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event. Marathon ...
More News »