NASA is Working on the Problem
Russian Rocket Gives NASA a Lift to Space Station
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: November 14, 2011 NYT
MOSCOW — A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off amid heavy snow in Kazakhstan on Monday morning, beginning a two-day trip to ferry three astronauts to the International Space Station and opening a new era of American dependence on Russia — and eventually on commercial enterprises — for space travel.
NASA ended its space shuttle program in July. The launch Monday morning, at 10:14 a.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying an American, Daniel C. Burbank, and two Russians, Anton N. Shkaplerov and Anatoly A. Ivanishin, is the first trip into orbit by astronauts since the last shuttle flight.
The Soyuz TMA-22 is scheduled to dock with the space station on Wednesday, and the three astronauts will join three others who have been on board since June. Those three astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth next week and recent mishaps had raised concerns that the space station would be left empty for the first time in more than a decade.
Monday’s launch, originally scheduled for September, was delayed after the failure in August of a Russian unmanned cargo rocket similar to the one used for manned flights. NASA officials said that they were confident that their Russian counterparts had identified and corrected the problem.
In a separate mishap last week, a Russian craft headed to explore a Martian moon got stalled in low-Earth orbit after its engines failed to fire. The stalled probe, which also launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, could crash back to Earth within weeks.
On Monday morning, video from the cosmodrome showed the astronauts wearing blue parkas as they headed to board the rocket amid snowflakes swirling in a blustery wind.
The white snowscape around the launch pad briefly glowed bright orange as the countdown hit zero, the boosters fired and the gray rocket quickly accelerated to more than 3,000 miles per hour for a smooth trip into space.
Once safely in orbit, the crew flashed a thumbs up.
Mr. Burbank, a veteran of previous space shuttle flights, will take charge of the space station, and the current commander, Michael Fossum, an American, and flight engineers, Satoshi Furukawa of Japan and Sergei Volkov of Russia, are scheduled to return to Earth on Nov. 22. Another crew of three astronauts are scheduled to travel to the space station on Dec. 21.
In addition to carrying out dozens of scientific experiments, the newly arrived space station team will inaugurate the new era of commercial space expeditions, including the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, built by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., known as SpaceX, which will carry a capsule called the Dragon.
Another commercial resupply ship being built by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., is also expected to make the trip to the station next year, according to NASA.