Soyuz Landing – Serious Mishap?
On Saturday (4/19) a Russian Soyuz capsule made an emergency landing outside the intended landing zone.
By Monday (4/21) news started coming out that the Soyuz capsule containing ISS returnees Yi So-yeon, South Korea’s first astronaut, Yuri Malenchenko from Russia and American Peggy Whitson, had landed about 300 miles off course due to a “communication error”.
The crew are safe, but were subjected to severe G-forces during re-entry, said a spokesman for mission control.
He said they were examined at the landing site by medical staff.
They landed hard, but without injuries. Today the story has morphed to be that the crew nearly bought the farm.
According to an unnamed Russian space official, the capsule had entered the atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner. Rather than the capsule’s heat shield taking the frictional re-entry burn, the escape hatch became exposed and bore the brunt of the high temperatures outside. The hatch sustained substantial damage.
This is the second landing mishap in a row for the Soyuz. That in and of itself is a concern for NASA, but Phil Plait, he of Bad Astronomy, feels that Congress should be involved. Though I reflexively recoil at the idea of Congress managing NASA, this is almost purely a political matter (there is nothing about the ISS that is anything other than political) and Congress should be involved.
There will be a gap between the retirement of the shuttle and the deployment of it’s replacement, a gap that the Soyuz was supposed to bridge as we fulfil our commitment to man the ISS. That now starts to look like a major gamble.