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25 Aug, 2011 05:40

Soyuz crash clouds space program

The failure of the Progress M-12M cargo ship launch on Wednesday may raise questions about the future of the Russian space program, as the Soyuz carrier is currently the only rocket used to supply the ISS.

The recovery process and search for the crashed cargo has been hampered at the moment by severe bad weather in the region. The rescuers are not currently able to involve helicopters. A helicopter has examined the area but no traces have been found. On Friday the search will continue. A state of emergency has been imposed in the Altai Region of Siberia. As the carrier contains fuel and toxic material this precaution was needed to ensure no human casualties were caused at the place of the crash. The rescuers are still to determine the precise dimensions of the crash site, as the rocket blasted off at enormous speed and broke into three parts high above in the air spread itself over a very wide area.As soon as the specialists get to the wreckage of the ship the debris will be collected and examined to determine the cause of the crash.Meanwhile, fears that toxic materials could have poised the atmosphere are growing. Some 1.5 tonnes of potentially-toxic fuel were on board the Progress vessel.Scientists have taken samples of the soil and water. Preliminary experiments have shown no contamination of toxic materials there as yet. On Friday a full assessment will determine the exact status.Since the US space shuttle program has been shut down, the Soyuz rocket remains the only way to carry supplies to the ISS and launch humans into space. This carrier has been a highly-respected craft among the cosmonauts.On Thursday the head of Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin ordered a workgroup to be organized which will control the manned space program.The group will examine all the Progress and Soyuz carrier-rockets, which are getting ready to go into space. Roscosmos said in a statement it was in contact with NASA about "resolving questions" related to supporting the ISS as well as future manned and cargo launches.RT reporter Peter Oliver says astronauts he spoke to at the Baikonur Cosmodrome describe the Soyuz rocket as being like a tractor: clunky, a work horse, but it gets the job done.The recent crash of the Soyuz may cause some troubles to the future of the space program in Russia. Thus it is extremely important to examine thoroughly the debris of the rocket to know what went wrong. However, despite the failure, the ISS members are not lacking supplies at the moment. The crew has enough food and equipment for the next three months and will not be affected by this Progress cargo crash.The ISS is currently home to six astronauts from Russia, the US and Japan. The Mission Control Center near Moscow says the astronauts took the news of the Progress’s failure calmly.This is the forth incident for Russia concerning space launches in the past nine months.The first took place in December, when three GLONASS navigation system satellites plunged into the Pacific Ocean shortly after their launch on a Proton-M rocket. In February a key military satellite, the Geo-IK-2, was put into the wrong orbit after its launch on a Rokot rocket. And the last took place on August 18, when another satellite was lost after also being placed in the wrong orbit.