Soyuz space capsule was in serious danger during descent

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Soyuz space capsule was in serious danger during descent

The Soyuz space capsule with three passengers returning from the International Space Station was in serious danger after entering the atmosphere pointing the wrong direction with the heat shield away from the earth.

Did we nearly have another Challanger disaster? I am suprised that the Russians are so forthcoming with the problem, instead of trying to hush it up.

MOSCOW (AP) - The crew of the Soyuz space capsule that landed hundreds of miles off target in Kazakhstan was in serious danger during the descent, a Russian news agency reported Tuesday.

Interfax quoted an unidentified Russian space official as saying the capsule entered Earth's atmosphere Saturday with the hatch first instead of its heat shield leading the way. As a result, the hatch sustained significant damage.

The official said a valve that equalizes pressure within the TMA-11 capsule with the outside also was damaged.

In addition, the capsule's antenna burned up, meaning the crew couldn't communicate properly with Russian Mission Control, the official said.

Interfax said another official at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan reported that the U.S. military tracked the Soyuz's landing 260 miles from its planned touchdown and directed Russian searchers to the site.

The Soyuz crew included American astronaut Peggy Whitson, South Korea's first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, and Russian flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko.

"The fact that the entire crew ended up whole and undamaged is a great success. Everything could have turned out much worse," said the space official, described by Interfax as being involved in the investigation of the improper landing. "You could say the situation was on a razor's edge."

Alexander Vorobyov, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency, confirmed the descent had problems, but said it was common for a Soyuz hatch and antenna to have heat damage during re-entry into the atmosphere

The crew returning from the international space station endured severe gravitational forces because of the steeper-than-usual re-entry.

On Monday, Yi said during a news conference at the Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow that she was frightened. "At first I was really scared because it looked really, really hot and I thought we could burn," she said.

The incident was the second time in a row—and the third since 2003—that a Soyuz landing has gone awry. The space official quoted by Interfax said that signaled problems with the Russian space program.
By netchicken: posted on 23-4-2008

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