Russian spacecraft plunging back to Earth | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 29.04.2015
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Russian spacecraft plunging back to Earth

"Progress" was carrying supplies for the ISS space station. Now, the unmanned space craft is out of control and plunging back to Earth. Russian officials still aren't sure exactly what went wrong.

The unmanned space vehicle "Progress" should be docked at the International Space Station (ISS) by now. But the spacecraft never reached its destination. Instead, it is now plunging back to Earth.

"It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go," an official familiar with the situation told AFP Wednesday afternoon.

The Russian spaceship "Progress" started its trip yesterday morning bound for the ISS. But shortly after take-off, the capsule carrying 2.7 tons of supplies for the ISS went out of control. Two antennas failed to open, rockets failed, and eventually “Progress” ended up in an incorrect orbit. Navigation of the spacecraft became impossible, NASA said on its blog.

Russian flight controllers had tried to regain control of the spacecraft and navigate it back to its set orbit and two more communication sessions had been scheduled in an attempt to save the spacecraft. But experts say they are likely to fail as "Progress" has begun descending back to Earth, where it will likely burn up in the atmosphere.

It is still unclear why "Progress" failed to reach its set orbit. "At this point, we do not have any information from the Russian side," said Andreas Schütz, press officer at the German Aeronautics and Space Center.

"Progress" was supposed to bring fresh supplies to the ISS. Included in the cargo was a "party kit": a festive dinner, personal gifts for the astronauts and a historic flag that once was raised over Berlin in 1945. The ISS crew wanted to celebrate May 9th, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

However, NASA said none of the equipment on board was critical for the US section of the ISS. The astronauts have plenty of provisions, enough to last for months.

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