Grounded Soyuz rockets means space station may be abandoned - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grounded Soyuz rockets means space station may be abandoned


NASA officials say the International Space Station may have to be abandoned.

Flights to the space station are on hold after an accident with a Russian supply rocket Wednesday. Shortly after launch, the third stage engines on the Soyuz rocket failed. The rocket crashed several hundred miles from the launch site.

The Soyuz rocket is also used to power manned launches. Russian officials have placed all launches on hold until the reason behind the failure is found. The delay means three of the six crew members currently on board will stay at least an extra week. That includes American Ron Geran, scheduled to return to Earth on September 8th.

Since July when the Space Shuttle fleet retired, Soyuz rockets are the only way to reach the ISS. NASA officials say even if the fleet were still running, capsules launched by Soyuz rockets would still be needed to serve as lifeboats. Officials say the batteries in the return capsules currently at the station will run out in mid-November.

"The first thing is if we don't have Soyuz flying by the middle of November 16th or so, the normal landing time for the last crew, then we would have to de-man the ISS at that point," said Mike Suffredini Program Manager for the ISS.

NASA says  controllers can keep a deserted space station operating indefinitely. However, there's an increased risk to the station if nobody's there to fix potential equipment breakdowns.

The station is supplied through next summer. The shuttle Atlantis dropped off a year's supply of goods just last month.

Astronauts have been living continuously aboard the space station since the first crew was launched in 2000.

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