Friday, September 24, 2010

Russia postpones for at least 24 hours Soyuz undocking

Russia waved off tonight's attempt to bring home the Soyuz from the International Space Station for at least 24 hours after a problem with the hooks and latches that bind the spacecraft to the outpost.

The spacecraft, carrying a U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, had been scheduled to undock at 9:35 p.m. and land at 12:55 a.m. in Kazakhstan, but the Poisk docking module’s latch system failed to respond to commands. The latches are supposed to open sequentially allowing the Soyuz to separate from the station. However, repeated attempts to drive them open failed.

As teams in Korolyov, Russia, and Houston troubleshooted the problem, the three astronauts were told to "take your gloves and helmets off and get comfortable," Russian Misson Control said. But after working the problem for hours and approaching the final undocking opportunity of the night at 12:45 a.m., Russia called the effort off.

Russian officials continued to evaluate the problem, and it wasn't immediately clear whether the next attempt would be in 24 hours or 48 hours.

The Soyuz was to have brought home today Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko and U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson. The crew have spent 175 days in space, 173 of those aboard the space station.

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