Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Astronauts Prepare to Temporarily Abandon International Space Station

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station said Monday that ground controllers are figuring out how best to leave the vast complex running -- what lights to leave on, which vents to keep open -- in case it needs to be temporarily abandoned.

A Russian rocket carrying space station supplies failed during liftoff two weeks ago and crashed into Siberia. It's the same type of rocket used to launch people to the station. Until Russian engineers can figure out what went wrong, all Soyuz launches are on hold.

Six men are living aboard the space station. Three of them will leave late next week, a week late to keep the outpost fully staffed as long as possible. A new crew of three was supposed to blast off this month. But the flight has been delayed until at least the beginning of November, just two weeks before the three remaining residents would have to leave.

Given that the investigation is still ongoing, "there are a lot of things that have to stack up" to allow for an early November launch, said U.S. astronaut Michael Fossum.

Fossum said he and his two crewmates will leave the space station in the best possible condition if it must be vacated. more