Soyuz capsule lands in Kazakhstan
The Soyuz space capsule with three crew members on board has successfully landed in Kazakhstan, following two attempts to undock from the International Space Station.
“The landing procedure went according to plan. The crew is feeling well,” Interfax news agency quoted a source at the Mission Control Center as saying.
The crew, Russians Aleksandr Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko and American Tracy Caldwell Dyson, are now near Moscow and having medical tests. The next crew, TMA-01M, left Star City on Saturday for Baikonur to start their training. They will be using a new M-series TMA spacecraft to travel to the ISS.
Yesterday the Soyuz failed to undock from the International Space Station – the first time such a craft had failed to unhitch from the ISS.
“It was a small part that alarmed us, a gear wheel. There are millions of parts like that in a spacecraft,” head of Russia’s Space Agency Anatoly Perminov later explained. “But every small detail affects safety and people's lives. So we decided to be on the safe side and make a second attempt at the undocking.”
When the crew tried to undock, one of the computers warned that the airlock between the Soyuz craft and the International Space Station was not fully sealed.
While it was afterwards assumed to be a false alarm, the alert put back by one day the return journey of the two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut.
The failure to unhook from the ISS is the third docking problem at the station in four months: two supply shuttles previously had to be manually docked after a computer malfunction.
The accident comes just before NASA takes the Space Shuttle fleet out of service, leaving the International Space Station entirely dependent upon Soyuz for supplies and crew transfers from Earth.