A U.S-Russian crew got some belated Christmas turkey and vital supplies Sunday when an unmanned cargo ship docked at the international space station, ending a shortage that had alarmed officials at home and forced astronauts to ration supplies.
The Progress M-51 docked at the orbiting station early Sunday morning, Moscow time, without problems. Workers at Russian Mission Control in Korolyov, just outside Moscow, broke into applause when the hookup, seen on large television screens, was completed.
The spaceship lifted off Friday from the remote Baikonur cosmodrome in the steppes of Kazakhstan and delivered about 2.5 tons of equipment and supplies. They included more than 440 pounds of food for Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao, who are in their third month on the station.
“They can greet the New Year calmly,” said Yuri Semyonov, the chief of the Energiya company, which built the Progress.
Christmas and New Year's gifts
The cargo included Christmas and New Year’s gifts for the crew from their families and friends, and some turkey for a belated Christmas dinner, space officials said.
Russian and American space officials were alarmed earlier this month to learn that supplies at the station were running out, and ordered the crew to cut back on meals. Russian Mission Control officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the crew had run out of meat and fish but still had other food, such as cereals and biscuits.
NASA said there was enough food to last seven to 14 days beyond Dec. 25 but warned that the crew would have to return to Earth if Progress didn’t successfully dock at the station. “I don’t remember ever encountering such situation in 40 years,” Semyonov told reporters at the Mission Control.
Earlier crews hogging best food?
He blamed previous crews for picking the best food and leaving Sharipov and Chiao with the staples.
An international team was looking into how the station’s food inventory ended up being tracked so poorly.
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 after the shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard. NASA has said it plans to resume its shuttle program in May.
The next Progress launch is set for Feb. 28.