Supplies for space station delayed by docking malfunction


Sat, Oct 28, 2006 - Page 6

The crew of the international space station waited for a second day yesterday to unload supplies delivered by an unmanned Russian cargo ship after a problem that had prevented the spacecraft from latching firmly onto the space outpost.

"The process of docking has not been completed yet, the hatches are not opened," Mission Control spokeswoman Vera Medvedeva said. She declined to elaborate and refused to say whether a spacewalk might be needed to fix the problem.

The crew would check whether the docking unit was securely sealed and after balancing the pressure, would begin unloading the cargo, the Russian Space Agency said.

"According to preliminary assessments, neither the docking unit of the Progress supply ship nor the space station was damaged," Federal Space Agency spokesman Igor Panarin was quoted as saying by the Interfax-AVN news agency.

The Progress M-58 cargo ship, carrying supplies to the station's three-man crew, docked at the station on Thursday.

Mission Control could not confirm, however, that its antenna had folded as required for the craft to clamp securely on the station although later it announced that it had solved the glitch.

Even if the ship could not be unloaded quickly, Russian space officials said the crew faced no danger and had enough oxygen, water and food.

Last month, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and US astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria began a six-month stint on the orbiting space station. They are on the outpost with German Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency, who arrived aboard the space shuttle in July.

The Progress ship, which lifted off on Monday from Kazakhstan, was delivering about 2.3 tonnes of equipment, water and food, including roast quail and other gourmet dishes by French celebrity chef Alain Ducasse intended for special occasions.