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By Andrew Osborn and Alexander Marrow
MOSCOW (Reuters) -A software glitch, and possible lapse in human attention, were to blame for throwing the International Space Station out of control, but work was proceeding to activate a newly attached module at the centre of the mishap, Russian space officials said on Friday.
Jet thrusters on the Russian research module Nauka inadvertently reignited on Thursday a few hours after it had docked to the space station, causing the entire orbital outpost to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth with seven crew members aboard.
According to NASA’s account of the incident, the mission flight director immediately declared a spaceflight emergency as engineers on the ground struggled to regain stability of the sprawling research satellite.
Attitude control over the station was lost for 45 minutes, as ground-based flight teams activated thrusters on another module of the outpost and on a separate cargo ship previously docked to the complex to restore its proper alignment, NASA told reporters on Thursday.
During that time station, which measures the length of an American football field, was slowly pitching end-over-end at a peak rate of about half a degree per second, equivalent to nearly four rotations per hour, according to NASA.
Communication with the crew also was lost twice for several minutes during the emergency.
On Friday, Vladimir Solovyov, designer general at Energia, a Russian space agency company, sought to reassure international partners that the incident had been contained and said cosmonauts would have Nauka – the Russian word for “science” – up and running soon.
“Due to a short-term software failure, a direct command was mistakenly implemented to turn on the module’s engines for withdrawal, which led to some modification of the orientation of the complex as a whole,” he said in a statement.
“The crew is now busy balancing the pressure in the Nauka module. In the afternoon, the crew will open the hatches, enter the module, turn on the necessary means of purifying the atmosphere and begin normal regular work.”
Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said later that human inattentiveness could have been involved.
“Everything was going well but there was a human factor. There was some euphoria (after successful docking), everybody got relaxed,” he was quoted as saying by the Komsomolskaya Pravda website.
NASA and Roscosmos each said that the seven crew members aboard – two Russian cosmonauts, three U.S. astronauts and two others from Japan and France – were never in any immediate danger.
Both agencies also said the situation was resolved in relatively short order with no apparent damage to the space station. But NASA space station program manager Joel Montalbano said he could recall only two or three previous occasions in the 20-plus-year history of the orbiting laboratory that the thrusters of a docked vehicle or module had misfired like that.
The mishap also prompted NASA to postpone the planned launch of Boeing Co’s Starliner space capsule on a highly anticipated, un-crewed test flight to the space station. The blastoff, which had been set for Friday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, has now been tentatively pushed back Aug. 3.
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who is on board, on Friday told his followers on Twitter not to worry.
“Dear friends, I’m reading your numerous comments. Don’t worry! Our work at the International Space Station to integrate the newly arrived Nauka module continues! Tonight we are going to open the hatches. Will keep you posted!”
Roscosmos said checks on Nauka’s engines were being completed remotely by Russian specialists to ensure continued safety and that the station was on its normal flight trajectory.
It said that the module docking had been otherwise successful.
Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, had hailed Nauka’s arrival the previous day as “a very difficult and important victory for us” and warmly accepted congratulations on Twitter from space entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Rogozin also spoke of plans to launch another Russian module to the station in November.
Roscosmos has suffered a series of mishaps and corruption scandals, including during the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s far east where contractors were accused of embezzling state funds.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Giles Elgood, William Maclean and David Gregorio)
Russian actor, director arrive back on earth from ISS – Euronews
A Soyuz space capsule carrying a cosmonaut and two Russian filmmakers has returned to Earth after leaving the International Space Station (ISS) earlier on Sunday.
The capsule landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan carrying Russian actor Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko, who returned to Earth after filming scenes for the world’s first movie in orbit – a project the Kremlin said would help burnish the nation’s space glory.
Peresild and Shipenko rocketed into orbit in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on October 5 for a 12-day stint on the station to film segments of the movie titled “Challenge,” in which a surgeon played by Peresild rushes to the space station to save a crew member who needs an urgent operation in orbit.
The pair returned to Earth on Sunday with another Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Novitskiy, who also stars as the ailing cosmonaut in the movie.
VIDEO: NASA’s asteroid hunter Lucy soars into sky with diamonds – Abbotsford News
A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.
Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter’s orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation.
An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). Researchers grew emotional describing the successful launch — lead scientist Hal Levison said it was like witnessing the birth of a child. “Go Lucy!” he urged.
Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half-century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft soaring with band members’ lyrics and other luminaries’ words of wisdom imprinted on a plaque. The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its science instruments.
In a prerecorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, credited for writing the song that inspired all this.
“I’m so excited — Lucy is going back in the sky with diamonds. Johnny will love that,” Starr said. “Anyway, if you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”
The paleoanthropologist behind the fossil Lucy discovery, Donald Johanson, had goose bumps watching Lucy soar — “I will never look at Jupiter the same … absolutely mind-expanding.” He said he was filled with wonder about this “intersection of our past, our present and our future.”
“That a human ancestor who lived so long ago stimulated a mission which promises to add valuable information about the formation of our solar system is incredibly exciting,” said Johanson, of Arizona State University, who traveled to Cape Canaveral for his first rocket launch.
Lucy’s $981 million mission is the first to aim for Jupiter’s so-called Trojan entourage: thousands — if not millions — of asteroids that share the gas giant’s expansive orbit around the sun. Some of the Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others trail it.
Despite their orbits, the Trojans are far from the planet and mostly scattered far from each other. So there’s essentially zero chance of Lucy getting clobbered by one as it swoops past its targets, said Levison of Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s principal scientist.
Lucy will swing past Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational oomph to make it all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit. On the way there, the spacecraft will zip past asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. The aptly named rock will serve as a 2025 warm-up act for the science instruments.
Drawing power from two huge circular solar wings, Lucy will chase down five asteroids in the leading pack of Trojans in the late 2020s. The spacecraft will then zoom back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2030. That will send Lucy back out to the trailing Trojan cluster, where it will zip past the final two targets in 2033 for a record-setting eight asteroids visited in a single mission.
It’s a complicated, circuitous path that had NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, shaking his head at first. “You’ve got to be kidding. This is possible?” he recalled asking.
Lucy will pass within 600 miles (965 kilometers) of each target; the biggest one is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) across.
“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’re going to be surprised,” said Johns Hopkins University’s Hal Weaver, who’s in charge of Lucy’s black-and-white camera. “But we can hardly wait to see what … images will reveal about these fossils from the formation of the solar system.”
NASA plans to launch another mission next month to test whether humans might be able to alter an asteroid’s orbit — practice in case Earth ever has a killer rock headed this way.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
Russian actor and director making first movie in space return to Earth after 12-day mission
A Russian actor and a film director making the first move film in space returned to Earth on Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS).
The Soyuz MS-18 Space capsule carrying Russian ISS crew member Oleg Novitskiy, Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko landed in a remote area outside the western Kazakhstan at 07:35 a.m. (0435 GMT), the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
The crew had dedocked from the ISS three hours earlier.
Russian State TV footage showed the reentry capsule descending under its parachute above the vast Kazakh steppe, followed by ground personnel assisting the smiling crew as they emerged from the capsule.
However, Peresild, who is best known for her role in the 2015 film “Battle for Sevastopol”, said she had been sorry to leave the ISS.
“I’m in a bit of a sad mood today,” the 37-year-old actor told Russian Channel One after the landing.
“That’s because it had seemed that 12 days was such a long period of time, but when it was all over, I didn’t want to bid farewell,” she said.
Last week 90-year-old U.S. actor William Shatner – Captain James Kirk of “Star Trek” fame – became the oldest person in space aboard a rocketship flown by billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin.
Peresild and Shipenko have been sent to Russian Star City, the home of Russia’s space programme on the outskirts of Moscow for their post-flight recovery which will take about a week, Roscosmos said.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
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