Just weeks after the U.S. retired its Space Shuttle and began what may be a long dependence on Russia to get American astronauts into space, an unmanned Russian spacecraft burned up in the Earth's atmosphere after failing to reach orbit.
Apparently, the "upper stage" of the rocket propelling the Progress cargo ship, which is the same size and shape as its manned-counterpart, the Soyuz capsule, failed to light causing the ship and its nearly 6,000-pounds worth of supplies meant for the International Space Station to plummet to Earth.
This no doubt leads to some long term questions about the viability of the U.S. and all other space-faring nations reliance on Russias Progress and Soyuz vehicles as the only way to access the ISS. In the short them, one also has to wonder whether the next mission to resupply the station, scheduled for Sept. 22, will happen.
The Russian and U.S. space agencies said the six astronauts aboard the space station had a plentiful supply of food and water.Good thing the Air Force has its mysterious X-37B robo-shuttles. The little space planes may be needed for more than just classified military missions.
"We can go several months without a resupply vehicle if that becomes necessary," NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters during a conference call.
But the planned Sept. 22 launch of a new crew to the station could be affected, he added.
"Obviously, this has implications to the (space station) and the crew as well," Suffredini said.
The cargo craft was to carry nearly three tons of supplies, including food, spare parts and fuel to the astronauts aboard the station -- U.S. astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov, Alexander Samokutyayev and mission commander Andrey Borisenko.