More than three weeks after it was undocked and placed in a parking orbit, an unmanned Russian Progress resupply vehicle was manually redocked to the International Space Station (ISS) this morning to be used as a trash receptacle and a fuel farm by the Expedition One crew.
Operating from a control panel in the ISS' Zvezda command center, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko guided the 7 ½ ton Progress in for a smooth linkup to the Zarya module's nadir, or downward facing docking port at 5:03 a.m. Central time (1103 GMT) as the two craft flew over northwest Mongolia, just south of the Russian-Mongolian border.
The Progress, which was first launched on November 16 and manually docked by Gidzenko on November 18 after a failure of the ship's automatic Kurs guidance system, was undocked on December 1 and placed in a parking orbit to enable Russian flight controllers to correct a software glitch which prevented its automatic docking.
With Commander Bill Shepherd and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev looking on, Gidzenko deftly maneuvered the Progress in for its redocking from a distance of just under 200 meters, offering the crew a place in which to stow trash and have residual fuel available for any maneuvers which may be required prior to its final undocking the day after the launch of the Shuttle Atlantis next month on the STS-98 mission to bring the U.S. Laboratory Destiny to the ISS.
Within two hours after the redocking, Krikalev equalized pressure between the Progress and the Zarya and opened hatches between the two vehicles to enable the crew members to deactivate the Progress' systems. All ISS systems are functioning in good shape.
The crew will spend the rest of the week unloading ballast from the Progress, removing its Kurs automated docking system for analysis by engineers back on Earth, performing biomedical experiments and reviewing flight plans for the January Shuttle flight to install Destiny to the ISS' Unity module.
Over the weekend, the crew spent a quiet Christmas, talking to their families, opening presents on board and receiving a holiday greeting on Christmas Day from NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. The three crew members, who are in their 56th day in space and their 54th day aboard the Station, will spend a quiet New Year's weekend, with a light work schedule on tap and additional conferences with their families planned to usher in 2001.
The next written Expedition One status report will be issued on Wednesday, January 3, or sooner, if developments warrant.
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