Space Station Future in Question | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 36 | p. 42 | Concentrates
Issue Date: September 5, 2011

Space Station Future in Question

Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: NASA, Soyuz, ISS, space station

All six crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may be called back to Earth, leaving the multi-billion-dollar international lab to be controlled remotely, according to NASA. The evacuation is a safety measure being considered as a result of the loss of a Russian supply vehicle. Progress experienced a third-stage engine shutdown shortly after takeoff on Aug. 24 and failed to reach orbit. The Russian Soyuz vehicle that taxis astronauts to and from ISS uses similar rockets and will not be launched until the cause of the Progress crash is known and fixed. The grounding of Progress and Soyuz—the only vehicle able to carry crews to the station now that the U.S. space shuttles have been retired—means that supplies cannot be delivered to ISS and crews cannot be replaced once their missions are complete. Under the plan discussed last week, half of the crew would leave ISS in mid-September using one of two Soyuz vehicles currently docked to the station. The other three crew members would head home in November using the other docked vehicle.

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