Glitch delays space station crew's return to Earth

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

An undocking error Friday prevented the Soyuz capsule from leaving the International Space Station, forcing three crew members to remain an extra day in orbit, Russian space officials said.

"The commission has taken the decision to push back the date of the spacecraft's return. The landing will not take place today," an official at the Soyuz mission control center near Moscow was quoted by Interfax as saying.

"The return of the Soyuz is planned for Saturday, at an estimated landing time of 0900 Moscow time (0500 GMT)."

It is the first time in a decade of Soyuz flights to the space station that the craft has failed to undock, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

US astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko had been due to land in the central Kazakh steppes on Friday morning.

But the manoeuvre was first delayed by a few hours due to "small glitches", before being cancelled Friday, Russian space officials said earlier.

Russia's space agency chief Anatoly Perminov said crew members had feared a problem with the air seal onboard the capsule due to a computer bug.

"The onboard computer system is picking up a false signal that there is no airlock on the station after the hatch is closed," Perminov said.

"We have carried out checks on the air tightness. The airlock is confirmed on the ISS and the Soyuz, which is the most important for today."

The Roskosmos head stressed that the Soyuz crew had all re-boarded the space station and were in good health.

"We could have done it (the undocking) today but we need extra time to avoid further risks. There is no reason to rush. The most important thing is the guarantee the safety of the crew," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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