:: Monday, May 05, 2003 ::
Off-Target Landing to Be Probed
MOSCOW -- As a U.S.-Russian crew returned to Moscow on Sunday after a rough and off-target Soyuz spaceship landing, officials said a special commission will probe what went wrong with the craft's descent from the orbiting international space station.
The spacecraft landed safely in Kazakhstan early Sunday using a second-choice backup procedure that involved a steeper fall to the ground and placed greater gravitational stress on the occupants. It landed north of the Aral Sea, about 290 miles short of the intended site. For part of its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, the craft was essentially in a free fall, with its descent later slowed by parachutes.
"All is fine," U.S. astronaut Kenneth Bowersox, smiling broadly, declared in good Russian to reporters at the site. "It was a real test flight!"
U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit was reported to be feeling weak and nauseated after landing -- not surprising given the effects of nearly six months of weightlessness followed by the brief experience of about nine times the Earth's gravitational force during the sharp descent. Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin, the flight commander, was described by a Russian space official as being "in perfect shape."
Later in the day, Bowersox described the ride down as "fantastic."
"For me as a test pilot, it was a really great experience," he said. "It's something I've always dreamed of."
More on the recovery here:
"This was one whopper of an experience," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, who led the delegation of space agency officials that participated in the recovery. "This demonstrates the depth of our resolve. That we are going to persevere even in the case of tragedy and adversity."
:: Mark 9:40 AM [+] ::