Spacecraft Landing Rattles Nerves - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spacecraft Landing Rattles Nerves

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM - A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three returning astronauts from the International Space Station touched down safely Friday in the central steppes of Kazakhstan, but not without rattling nerves after a breakdown in communications.

NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev landed some 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of the city of Zhezkazgan at 10 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) after 164 days in space.

Repeated calls to the Soyuz TMA-21 capsule from Mission Control in Korolyov, outside Moscow, went unanswered for several minutes, well after the craft had de-orbited. Communication was eventually established between the crew and an Antonov fixed-winged aircraft circling the landing site.

The landing was smooth in the area planned seconds before the expected arrival time.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, NASA's Michael Fossum, and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan's JAXA space agency remain onboard the international space station and are due to return to Earth on Nov. 22.

There will be some taut nerves in the run-up to that return, which Roscosmos announced Friday should be preceded by a manned Soyuz launch from Baikonur on Nov. 14. Earlier this week, Roscosmos announced that the launch was to take place on Nov. 12.

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, had to postpone that launch from October amid concerns over a failed supply mission last month. Another delay would almost certainly mean the space station would have to be left unmanned. Astronauts have been living aboard the station, without interruption, for almost 11 years.

Since phasing out the U.S. space shuttle program earlier this year, NASA is relying entirely on Russia to get American and other astronauts to the international space station.

On Friday, Russian space officials mounted their well-rehearsed search-and-recovery operation for Soyuz landings, deploying 14 Mi-8 helicopters in a holding circular pattern, as well as more than half a dozen all-terrain vehicles. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

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