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Sanitary situation worsening unlikely in Progress debris fall area

August 30, 2011, 13:30 UTC+3

According to the daily monitoring, no people with the specific signs of acute toxic poisoning

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GORNO-ALTAISK, August 30 (Itar-Tass) — The probability of worsening of the sanitary situation in the supposed area of the Progress-M12M spacecraft debris fall in the Choya district of the Altai Republic is diminishing every day. The absence of traces of heptyl in the samples of soil, water and plants, as well as no health complaints from the local population five days after the incident give this confidence, chief sanitary doctor of the Altai Republic Leonid Shchuchinov said in Gorno-Altaisk on Tuesday.

According to him, the background radiation in these places also does not exceed the maximum permissible level and corresponds to the natural background values typical for this region. It is about 10 micro-roentgens per hour. Shchuchinov stressed that the sanitary-epidemiological situation in the area of the supposed spacecraft debris fall remains stable to this day, no complications have been registered. This is confirmed by the results of daily monitoring that will be conducted until September 2. The first samples of water and soil from the place of the supposed spaceship crash were taken on the night of the incident.

“The situation is under control of the Russian chief sanitary doctor, Gennady Onishchenko,” Leonid Shchuchinov said.

On Monday, the Russian Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service’s (Rospotrebnadzor) department for the Altai Republic announced that radiological monitoring is conducted in the area of the Karakoksha, Krasnoselsk, Altaiskaya Kuzya settlements of the Choya district. A total of 125 samples have been studied. Seventeen plant samples from the adjacent forest and cottage land plots, three soil samples, four samples of water have been selected for radiological survey. No technogenic radionuclides have been found in the samples.

According to the daily monitoring, no people with the specific signs of acute toxic poisoning have applied to healthcare facilities of the Choya, Chemal, Ongudai, Ulagan, Turochak districts. The Rospotrebnadzor department for the Altai Republic has also not received urgent reports about toxic poisoning cases.

The fourth this year Russian cargo spacecraft Progress was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 24. The launch of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the Progress M-12M spacecraft was carried out by the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) crews exactly on schedule - at 17:00 MSK. The spaceship was to deliver to the ISS cargoes, including food, water, fuel and equipment. The Progress M-12M docking to the ISS was scheduled for 18:40 MSK on August 26.

However, the ship failed to reach the desired orbit.

Last Wednesday, Roskosmos said that the abortive launch of a Progress transport ship on August 24 will not affect the operation of the International Space Station and its crew. “The abortive launch of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket and the failure to put the Progress M-12M transport ship to the designated orbit will not influence support the life and work of the crews of the 28/29th expeditions to the ISS,” the agency said. “Stocks of food, water and life support systems allow the crew to operate for a long time,” it said.

The weather conditions have been complicating the search for the Progress spacecraft debris in the Altai Republic. Snow fell in the mountains and there is thick fog there, director of the Centre for Monitoring the carrier rockets impact area in the Siberian region Alexander Puzanov told Itar-Tass on Monday. “The search today will also be conducted from a helicopter, is the weather allows. So far it is impossible to take off,” Puzanov said. “On Sunday we were flying all day long and found nothing but traces from previous Proton launches.” Snow has fallen now. It could have covered something, but it’s unlikely.”

He also noted that samples of soil and water taken daily in the search districts have shown negative results for the presence of highly toxic substances. “The working hypothesis is so far being confirmed. Everything has burnt in the atmosphere before reaching the ground,” Puzanov said.

On Sunday, the search for the Progress spacecraft was underway in the Choya, Turochak and Chemal districts of the Altai Republic.

The cargo spaceship crashed on August 24 at 20:55 local time, presumably in the Chebolak area of the Choya district of the Altai Republic. The Progress ship that was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome was to deliver more than 2.6 tonnes of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Approximately 325 seconds into flight, a malfunction was detected in the RD-0110 engine powering the Blok I third stage of the Soyuz-U rocket, which caused the onboard computer to terminate the flight through thrust termination. As a result, the vehicle failed to achieve orbit, re-entering over the Altai Republic. It was the first failure of a Progress spacecraft since launches began in 1978, and the third consecutive orbital launch failure worldwide, following the failures of Express-AM4 and Shijian XI-04 less than a week previously.

Potential danger for those staying in the area of space debris fall may be posed by heptyl – a highly toxic rocket fuel. The space industry sources told Itar-Tass that the Progress spacecraft carried about 800 kilograms of heptyl intended for use on the ISS. 

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