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SPACE STATION, SLOWLY SINKING

SPACE STATION, SLOWLY SINKINGRussian space freighters can bring food and fuel to the International Space Station -- one is supposed to do just that later on today. But with the fleet of space shuttles grounded, the New York Times asks: what will keep the 200-ton station "from sinking out of orbit altogether and incinerating as Columbia did?"Usually, when a shuttle visits the station, the orbiting platform gets a boost of "about eight miles upward, countering the steady sinking caused as the station's broad surfaces encounter drag exerted by diffuse molecules of air," the Times notes. "The Russian Progress (cargo ships) can haul fuel to boost the station, as well, but they will not be visiting nearly enough this year to compensate for the absence of space shuttles, five of which were to have docked before 2004."THREAD-BEAR PROGRAM In a separate article, the Times details the "poverty-stricken" Russian space effort, which has a budget that's less than 2 percent of NASA's and "barely half of what India spends." The bare-bones program is reliable, however; no Russian cosmonaut has died on a mission in over 30 years.UPDATE: The Russian cargo ship has successfully docked with the International Space Station, Reuters reports.

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