Thursday, 25 August 2011

Russian Space Ship crashes - What now NASA?

A Russian space station supply ship, Progress M-12M, crashed into the Siberian landscape just
A Russian Soyuz lifts off from the Baikonur Co...Image via Wikipediaminutes after its launch. It was carrying three-tonnes of supplies for the International Space Station astronauts.  All contact with the spacecraft was lost. Reports of the wreakage falling to ground with a deafening roar led to Russian space officials declaring the flight a total failure.

The loss of the supply spacecraft will not pose to big a problem for the astronauts in the International space station as they have more than enough supplies. It will threaten the launch of the next crew, just one month away. This is because the upper stage of the unmanned Soyuz rocket that crashed is similar to one used in the manned, Soyuz-FG, version of the rocket. In addition the crew presently based at the station may have to stay a little longer.

The crash immediately brings to the fore the discussion about the US stopping its Shuttle programme. With Russia being the only space going transport provider right now, if there is a major flaw in the present batch of Soyuz Rockets this may not be the last of the spaceship crashes. Keep in mind this is the second failure of a Russian rocket in a week. On August 18, a telecommunications satellite was put into a wrong orbit.

The Obama administration decision to abandon the space shuttle has been under much scrutiny. The idea being that private companies must come up with cheaper and efficient methods to launch payloads into orbit. Sounds great but why would a company like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and others spend millions of dollars to design a spacecraft that may or not be selected as the newest generation spacecraft.

Spacecraft like the Orion project, cancelled because of budget cuts, was destined to be the new 'shuttle' but now all the work for that project has been shelved for the time being. It makes you wonder if the decision to abandon a space going programme without an alternative available was the best decision to make? Sure the US may save some money now but what will the long term effects be?

Russia will continue to gain valuble experience and research into rockets, as will China and other near space going countries like India. Whereas the US are approaching the space race with a capitlistic point of view and not so much with national pride as the space race was run a couple of decades ago.

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