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Volkov, ISS crew readied for indefinite flight after Progress crash

November 24, 2011, 16:22 UTC+3
“I had so much work to do that I had to work also on weekends,” Volkov said. However, the crew managed to find the time for joint rest
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STAR CITY, November 24 (Itar-Tass) — Following the crash of the Progress cargo spacecraft this August, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and his colleagues from the International Space Station’s (ISS) crew were ready to prolong their flight for an indefinite period.

Answering a question what was the reaction of the crew after the Progress crash, the astronaut said, “We talked to Michael (Fossum) and Satoshi (Furukawa) and decided that we will fly as long as necessary.”

Their colleagues - the Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and NASA astronaut Ronald Garan, who in mid-September were planning to return home, according to Volkov, had mixed feelings. “They wanted both to fly more and to return home,” the cosmonaut said. As a result, their landing took place on schedule, and Volkov, Fossum and Furukawa who stayed on the ISS were implementing a program that is “usually done by a six-strong crew.”

In this connection there was no time for leisure. “I had so much work to do that I had to work also on weekends,” Volkov said. However, the crew managed to find the time for joint rest. “We have renewed the tradition of Saturday movie watching,” said Volkov. By mutual agreement we watched the favourite movies: Fossum was acquainting the colleagues with the “Lord of the Rings” fantasy, and Volkov was translating for the foreign friends the unforgettable phrases of the legendary characters of the movie about WW2 “Only Old Men Are Going to Battle.”

The astronauts were not only watching movies, but also made them. From a series of photographs taken from the ISS, the Russian and American were making videos with views of the Earth. “Michael was the main cameraman, I just helped,” Volkov said modestly. However, he had not had the time for education: his good intentions to pass the examination session from space never came true.

Progress M-12M, identified by NASA as Progress 44 or 44P, was an unmanned Progress spacecraft that was lost in a launch failure in August 2011, at the start of a mission to resupply the International Space Station. It was the twelfth modernised Progress-M spacecraft to be launched. Manufactured by RKK Energia, the spacecraft was to have been operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency.

Progress M-12M was launched by a Soyuz-U carrier rocket, flying from Area 1/5 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Liftoff occurred at 13:00:11 UTC on 24 August 2011. 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 region of Russia. 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 Ekspress-AM4 and Shijian XI-04 less than a week prior. On 9 September, the Federal Space Agency announced that the loss was caused by a blocked fuel duct, which caused the engines to shutdown prematurely. The failure was not expected to have any immediate effect on the crew of the International Space Station, as the outpost was stocked with reserves of food, water and oxygen. The spacecraft was insured for three billion roubles (US$103 million). As a precaution, the launch of a GLONASS satellite on a Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat, which had been scheduled for 26 August, was delayed.

The ISS is a joint project between the five participating space agencies, the American NASA, the Russian RKA, the Japanese JAXA, the European ESA, and the Canadian CSA. The ownership and use of the space station is established in intergovernmental treaties and agreements which divide the station into two areas and allow the Russian Federation to retain full ownership of Russian Orbital Segment (ROS)/(RS), with the US Orbital Segment (USOS) allocated between the other international partners. The station is serviced by Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.

The ISS provides a platform to conduct scientific research that cannot be performed in any other way. Whilst unmanned spacecraft can provide platforms for zero gravity and exposure to space, the ISS offers a long-term environment where studies can be performed potentially for decades, combined with ready access by human researchers over periods that exceed the capabilities of manned spacecraft. Kibo is intended to accelerate Japan’s progress in science and technology, gain new knowledge and apply it to such fields as industry and medicine. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which NASA compares to the Hubble telescope, could not be accommodated on a free flying satellite platform, due in part to its power requirements and data bandwidth needs. The Station simplifies individual experiments by eliminating the need for separate rocket launches and research staff.

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