Image: View of station
A video camera on the Progress cargo ship captures this view of the international space station, overlaid with Russian telemetry, as it approaches for docking early Sunday. staff and news service reports
updated 6/18/2005 9:59:31 PM ET 2005-06-19T01:59:31

The international space station's crew guided a Russian cargo ship to its docking early Sunday after the unmanned craft's automated system suffered a glitch.

The Progress M-53 cargo ship took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, carrying about 2.6 tons of food, water, fuel and other supplies for Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and NASA astronaut John Phillips, who have been on the orbiting station since April.  The cargo includes scientific equipment and spare parts for the station's main oxygen generator, which has suffered repeated breakdowns.

Russian controllers had planned to use the Progress ship's automated system for Saturday's docking, but during the approach, they found that the required commands could not be uplinked to the system.

"Shortly before the docking, the autopilot switched off because of communications problems," said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency. "Communications were quickly restored, but the Mission Control decided to play it safe and asked the crew to conduct a manual docking."

Soyuz spacecraft are usually guided by autopilot on their approach to the station and during the docking, but the crew is trained to operate a backup remote-control system manually in case of computer or communications failure. With Phillips' assistance, Krikalev used the backup system to complete the docking at 4:42 a.m. Moscow time (8:42 p.m. ET Saturday).

Russian Soyuz crew capsules and Progress cargo ships have been the only link to the space station since the U.S. shuttle fleet was grounded in the wake of the Columbia disaster in February 2003. NASA plans to resume shuttle flights as early as next month.

The shuttle Discovery is currently due to lift off in the July 13-31 time frame, bringing more supplies to the space station. Discovery's crew also will test methods for inspecting the shuttle and even fixing damage if necessary. Among the cargo brought up by the Progress craft is a camera system for inspecting the shuttle from the station.

Lyndin said the cargo ship also delivered movies and other personal items for the crew, as well as 60 snails intended for biological experiments.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and

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