- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

KOROLYOV, Russia A Russian cargo craft docked at the International Space Station yesterday, bringing vital fuel, food and water to an outpost and crew suddenly cut off from a major supply line after the loss of the Columbia.
Maneuvering on auto pilot, the unmanned Progress M-47 cargo ship moored itself to the station at 9:49 a.m. It had lifted off atop a Soyuz-U rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday.
The Progress brought about 2.75 tons of fuel as well as food, 18.5 gallons of water and other supplies for U.S. astronauts Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit, and Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin.
With U.S. shuttles grounded indefinitely after the Columbia disaster Saturday, the long-planned supply mission came as officials from the United States, Russia and other partners in the 16-nation space station project were discussing how to run the orbiting complex amid the break in supplies.
"We are OK on food and fuel," said Yuri Semyonov, the head of the company that makes the Progress, at mission control outside Moscow.
He said, "The most critical situation is with water … since in the past U.S. space shuttles have delivered a lot of water."
A mission-control spokesman said the station, which has a water regeneration unit, has sufficient reserves of water to last until the next Progress supply mission set for June.
Mr. Semyonov said Russian and U.S. space officials were discussing plans for pending flights to the station. In the past, U.S. shuttles have ferried long-term crews to the station, while Russian rockets have carried cosmonauts and space tourists on short visits, using a fresh Soyuz craft which unlike the Progress can carry people and leaving it behind as an emergency lifeboat for the station's crew.
Mission-control chief Vladimir Solovyov said the next Soyuz mission is scheduled for late April and that the current crew will return to Earth then or in early May.
NASA plans had called for expanding the station during five shuttle flights this year, but they have been put on hold pending the investigation into what happened to the Columbia shuttle.
Shuttles can carry payloads of 110 short tons, while Russian Progress supply ships carry no more than 2.75 tons and usually less.
Shuttles have also helped maintain the station's orbit by firing their engines and delivered bulky cargoes needed for the station's expansion, a job the small Progress ships can't handle.
The Columbia disaster has sparked fears in Russia that NASA will decide to suspend work on the station and leave it temporarily unmanned, a prospect that would leave Moscow without any manned space program of its own for the first time since it put the first person into space in 1961.
"We must do everything to prevent the collapse of the International Space Station project, which is the accomplishment of the entire mankind," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said yesterday on a visit to the Khrunichev space center, the nation's top rocket manufacturer.
Russia must send two Soyuz capsules and three Progress supply ships to the station each year under a current agreement. Without shuttle missions, as many as six Progress ships will be needed to continue running the station, Russian Aerospace Agency Director Yuri Koptev has said.
One Progress costs about $22 million, a price Russian officials have said will have to be picked up by their partners if extra ships are needed.

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