Stranded In Space

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Monday, August 29, 2011 - 3:17pm

Russia grounds Soyuz rockets in wake of failed launch, leaving no way to reach the ISS.

NASA officials delayed their next mission to the International Space Station on Monday after Russia decided to ground its Soyuz rocket.

NASA representatives said they are preparing to operate the ISS without a crew if necessary.

Russia officially grounded its Soyuz program Monday after a rocket crash last week.

The failed launch of the rocket demonstrated the increased risks and difficulties of operating the space station in the post-shuttle era.

With no more space shuttles flying, the space station is now dependent on Russian, European and Japanese supply ships.

A rocket failure often means a long delay before the next launch, so it is not clear how soon the Russians can launch another supply ship.

It is also unclear when the Russians will be able to launch astronauts and cosmonauts again.

A manned launch was scheduled for September 21.

Crews and cargo are launched on the same type of rocket.

Russian rockets are the only way for crew members to reach the space station.

Now that they are grounded, there will be no way for replacement crews to keep the station occupied for some time.

Before the last shuttle launch, a group of retired NASA astronauts and flight controllers, including Neil Armstrong and Christopher Kraft, warned that dependence on Russian rockets alone would be dangerous.

There is no risk of the space station crew running out of vital supplies; the station is stocked with enough food and water for a year.
 

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