- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

An unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft arrived Christmas evening at the International Space Station with more than 5,000 pounds of badly needed supplies, including a three-month supply of food and water for the two-person crew.

The docking originally was scheduled for 6:31 p.m. as the two spacecraft flew over South America. It had to be postponed for about a half-hour because of a problem aboard the space station with a U.S.-to-Russia video converter. The plan had been for NASA’s relay satellites to receive the video from the space station as the Progress approached, then transmit the video to Russia via commercial video links.

American astronaut Leroy Chiao reported that he couldn’t find the proper software on a laptop computer aboard the space station and asked Mission Control if the software could be on another computer.

“Apparently, the video link isn’t working, although it was working yesterday,” a Russian flight controller said.

Russia’s mission control in Korelov, known as TsUP, prefers dockings to occur over Russia. TsUP can receive the video signals directly from the space station only when it flies over Russian ground stations. Ground controllers use the data from the video feeds to monitor what’s occurring on the space station to assist the crew.

Normally, the Progress spacecraft docks automatically under computer control, but if there’s a problem with the “Kurs” docking system, a cosmonaut on the space station can perform the docking manually using a system similar to that of a radio-controlled airplane.

The crew took the unexpected change in stride, Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov said.

“Everything’s fine; we are stationkeeping at 150 meters,” he said as the Progress and space station flew over the Atlantic Ocean. “Everything’s nominal. I can see the range and I can see the station. Leroy’s also watching it so things are fine.”

In addition to the 2.5 tons of food, water, fuel and research equipment being delivered to the space station, the Progress also arrived with presents from the crew’s families.

Mr. Chiao’s wife, Karen, said she included beef jerky, nacho cheese sauce, almonds, chorizo sausage, smoked oysters and candy. For entertainment, she sent several movies and 30 episodes of “Seinfeld.” Mrs. Chiao also included a handmade personal Christmas present to surprise her husband — a balsa model of his personal airplane with tiny photos of the couple in the windows.

Because of the crew’s long workday, they weren’t scheduled to open the hatch to the Progress until today.

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