An unmanned Russian Progress resupply ship successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS) early today, bringing a ton of fuel, food and personal effects for the crew which has been living on board the outpost since November and the crew which is set to replace them in less than two weeks.
With Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev looking on from inside the Zvezda living quarters, the Progress automatically linked up to Zvezda’s aft docking port at 3:50 a.m. Central time as the Station sailed over Central Asia. Unlike the docking of the last Progress to the Station in November, which had to be conducted manually after the automated docking system experienced a problem, today’s linkup was textbook and uneventful. Last Saturday, with Gidzenko at the controls, the crew undocked its Soyuz capsule from the same docking port and flew to a redocking at the nadir docking port of the Zarya module to make room for the Progress.
Within two hours of docking, the crew opened hatches between Zvezda and Progress and began to unload its supplies, which include clothing, spare parts, computers and office gear for Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev and their replacements, Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev, Jim Voss and Susan Helms, who are set to be launched next Thursday aboard the Shuttle Discovery to begin the second expeditionary mission to the Station. The Expedition One crew will return home aboard Discovery on March 20 to complete more than four months in orbit.
Late yesterday, NASA managers officially set March 8 for the launch of Discovery to the Station on the STS-102 mission to not only transport the second Expedition crew, but to continue the outfitting of the U.S. Laboratory Destiny through two space walks and the delivery of additional logistical items, spare parts and hardware in an Italian-built cargo module called Leonardo. The first racks of science equipment for research aboard the Station will also be moved from Leonardo into Destiny, including the Human Research Facility, which will be a mainstay for experiments involving the study of the reaction of the human body to weightlessness.
The International Space Station continues to orbit the Earth in excellent shape at an altitude of 235 statute miles. Unless developments warrant, the next update on ISS activities will be included in the first STS-102 Mission Status Report, which will issued following Discovery’s launch on March 8.
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