Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More disturbing "spin" and harsh realities of the Soyuz re-entry

A Crew's "decision" and why, Parachutes on fire, superstitions about women in space -- some call third Soyuz "Hot" re-entry and missed target reason to examine long-docked manned re-entry vehicles, will push for Block One of Orion CEV, ASAP

As discussed earlier in what as hoped might be a wrap-up and some guesses as to the answers to some lingering questions about what went wrong - once again - with the Soyuz TMA re-entry two days ago, starting with an obviously a late and possibly manual re-entry burn, is casting unwelcome shadows over a week when Russian space planners had been announcing plans to facilitate an expanded manned program.

Anatoly Perminov, Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, has been among those emerging from planning sessions in Moscow floating ideas for an orbiting construction platform for interplanetary travel, announcements for a new launch base in the Russian Far East, plans to send monkeys to Mars and for continuing advances in a long-proven leadership as a dependable launch partner.

Last months failure to place a twin payload of communications satellites in geocentric orbit begun to fade, but the United States is depending on Star City to provide them access to the International Space Station for at least five years after Shuttles retirement in 2010.

This third, and second in a row, disturbing failure of the minimalist but rugged Soyuz re-entry system - and a comical attempt to cover-up or downplay facts in this latest landing, are disturbing NASA, and at budget time on Capitol Hill, where some Congressmen will undoubtedly use the incident as a way to ridicule Roscosmos, Michael Griffin, President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and manned space flight in general.

The cooperation NASA has shown to Russian efforts to downplay the situation - by simply not reporting on it, long after the Russians had resumed offering at least some information - has some in the astronaut corp remembering MIR in 1997, and the fire that nearly killed the crew and Michael Foale, whose endurance record in space, ironically, was bested by a week by Dr. Peggy Whitson. Some of the astronauts, most of whom still do not anymore relish a long trip to ISS any more than they did to Mir twelve years ago, are already urging a "surge," a more rapid roll-out at least of the Block One model of Orion and Ares I booster of the Constellation program.

Expedition XVI crew members Dr. Peggy Whitson, Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and So-yeon Yi of South Korea returned home 295 kilometers off target, April 19 in central Kazakhstan after a "ballistic" re-entry, resulting from the use of a "back-up re-entry system" engaged perhaps only moments after the auto-sequence failed to change the spacecraft's trajectory to properly encounter the atmosphere and reach the intended target area.

Still unanswered are simple questions concerning what was said to have been, now, a good "decision" made by "the crew." Those words were used over and over, as they had in the immediate aftermath of the off-target landing. "The crew" making such a decision immediately questions the secondary re-entry procedure being "automatic," as was reported elsewhere.

As Soyuz commander, Malenchenko would have have made such a "decision." To have arrived anywhere near target, that decision would have to have been made within a very few seconds.

Ian O'Neill of UNIVERSE TODAY is reporting on more pieces of the puzzle in "New Facts Emerging from Soyuz Emergency Landing and some very disturbing information.

Much of what may be intrinsically flawed in the Russian manned space space program is definitely bringing to mind questions not just about the logistic difficulty and crew hardship in depending on the Russian Soyuz, but that ship's safety, though for the first time in a while.

Though some are simply wondering if the long-docking of any manned vehicle, built for human re-entry, produces unintended consequences. And others have the creeping feeling the Russians are suffering under what was thought to be a uniquely American, "creeping delusion of this kind of travel becoming routine."

What started out as disturbing is beginning to sound much like the aftermath of the original, near disasterous fire on board the Space Station Mir in 1997, and not the least part an American Cone of Silence descending down on elements of the story, to help Roscosmos save face, or NASA's in the middle of a congressional budget battle that is, in itself, in the middle of a heated national presidential Election Year.


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