Mon, Dec 27, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Space station gets gifts and food for the holiday season

DPA , Washington and Baikonur, Kazakhstan

A Russian space cargo craft docked late on Saturday at the International Space Station (ISS) and delivered Christmas gifts and much needed supplies, avoiding an evacuation due to dwindling foodstuffs, NASA officials said.

Cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, who had reduced their food consumption by 10 percent to stretch supplies, ate a special prepacked festive meal to mark the Christmas Day holiday.

They could look forward to sweets from home when they unload the cargo yesterday and a return to their 3,000 calorie a day diet. The men have lost 2kg to 4kg during the past month, Bloomberg News Service reported.

The unmanned Progress M-51 spacecraft carried 2.5 tonnes of supplies, including extra food rations to replenish stocks that would have run out in the middle of next month -- and a 15kg package with gifts from home for each man.

It docked as the space station passed over central Asia, a bit later than planned to allow the ground control in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, to resume contact with the space station during the docking, a NASA spokesman said.

Chiao and Sharipov have been aboard the station since October. The food shortage, notable for its departure from space planners' normal exactitude, occurred because the previous crew had chowed down heartily without telling ground control how much they were eating, according to CBS News.

"The last crew kind of got into our food supply and the biggest problem with that was that somehow they failed to communicate accurately to the ground what exactly had happened, particularly on the Russian side," Chiao said.

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