The International Space Station has just received a much-needed delivery, including some groceries, aboard a Russian capsule that successfully docked after three previous attempts to resupply the orbiting laboratory had failed.
The unmanned Progress M-28M spacecraft, carrying 2.5 metric tons of fuel, oxygen, water, food and other supplies, linked up with the station two days after it launched aboard a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
It followed the last week's launch failure by private U.S.-based SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rocket broke up about eight minutes into its flight, and the loss in April of a Russian Progress spacecraft that could not dock with the station because of problems controlling the unmanned vehicle. In October last year, another attempt, by U.S.-based Orbital Sciences, also ended in failure.
The successful docking today is a relief for the crew, which includes American astronaut Scott Kelly, as another failure would have put a strain on "consumables" aboard the ISS, NPR's Geoff Brumfiel says. Geoff reported Friday on the situation before the latest delivery:
"Normally water is carefully conserved by a sophisticated system that lets astronauts recycle things like urine. But the system depends on filters, and those filters are nearly full. Two sets of replacements were lost when the American rockets blew up. And NASA has run out of spares for now. So the astronauts will soon be depending on their water reserves.
"Food is that last essential. Right now the supply looks good, but Anderson says the crew may already be thinking about conserving what it has."