Soyuz Makes Belated but Safe Space Station Docking
NASA Television/Screenshot Irene Klotz for Discovery News.
Soyuz capsule nears the space station.
This was the view from the International Space Station as the European Automated Transfer Vehicle "Albert Einstein" (ATV-4) undocked and began five days of orbital maneuvers before reentry on Nov. 2. The unmanned cargo vehicle had been docked to the space station for five months after delivering seven tons of food, supplies and equipment to the orbiting outpost in June. Filled with trash and unwanted equipment, the ATV became a high-tech waste disposal system on Oct. 28 as it began its reentry procedure. These are some of the spectacular views as seen by space station astronauts as the ATV slammed into the Earth's atmosphere.
The descending ATV-4 slowly approaching its reentry demise against the backdrop of Earth -- two commercial jetliners and their contrails can be seen.
From the space station astronauts perspective, the ATV can be seen interacting with the Earth's atmosphere some 62 miles (100 kilometers) directly below. Pieces of the ATV are ripped away by extreme stresses and begin to burn up.
The main mass of the ATV burns brightly during reentry over an unpopulated region of the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 2.
Resembling a meteor, the main mass of the ATV succumbs to the extreme heating and dynamic stresses as it tumbles through the atmosphere.
The remaining mass of the ATV breaks up, scattering pieces as the spacecraft lights up the skies over the Pacfic Ocean.
Three new crewmembers reached the International Space Station on Thursday, two days later than planned after their Soyuz capsule automatically aborted a steering maneuver needed to reach the outpost on Tuesday.
Russia had been using a fast-track, six-hour flight path to the station for a year without incident until Tuesday when a slight misalignment of the Soyuz capsule triggered its computers to cancel a necessary engine burn.
Preliminary analysis shows the Soyuz’s orientation was off by 1 degree, said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias, enough to cancel the steering maneuver and cause the spacecraft to revert to its backup rendezvous slot on Thursday.
Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and expected to reach the station six hours later.
Instead, their Soyuz capsule reached the station at 7:53 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
“Better late than never,” said Navias, as the Soyuz was making its final approach.
Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson are slated to spend the next six months aboard the station. They join commander Koichi Wakata and flight engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mikhail Tyurin, who arrived in November.