Another Touchdown for the Russian Soyuz Mission
You could call it one small step for UrtheCast or one giant leap for Soyuz, but one thing is certain: the Soyuz System, the only rocket fleet on Earth available to reach the International Space Station, is back in action.
The Red-Eye to the ISS
On Wednesday December 21, the Soyuz mission successfully launched three cosmonauts on a two day journey to the ISS, the second of its kind in the past two months and the 30th expedition for the Soyuz programme. The International Space Station, a football-field-length satellite and research facility, will welcome its new crew members on Friday morning. Mission commander Oleg Kononenko and astronauts Don Pettit and André Kuipers will join a host of ISS residents from Russia, the United States and Japan, and will return back to Mother Earth in March 2012.
As a personal touch to mark Soyuz’s expeditions, the Russian Federal Space Agency has held a contest allowing children from around the world to submit drawings, which are converted into mission patches for the astronauts’ spacesuits. Dutch artist Luc van den Abeelen adapted the most recent design by 11-year-old Russian resident Alena Gerasimova. In recognition for winning the contest, Alena was awarded with a special invitation to watch the crew launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Where UrtheCast Fits In
What does it mean for UrtheCast, you ask? Well, it secures our ability to send our high-res cameras to the ISS and deliver interactive video of your planet. At approximately 400 km above the Earth, reaching the ISS requires some help; and because we’re not all rocket scientists and astronauts over here (though a few of us are) we can’t accomplish this feat alone.
Why it’s a Big Deal
July of 2011 saw a halt of the USA’s Human Space Flight Programme, making the Soyuz Fleet the only one of its kind. A Soyuz mission was scheduled for September, but due to issues with a cargo mission, September’s trip was postponed and the programme was indefinitely stalled. Successful November and December journeys mean the Human Space Flight Programme – and UrtheCast – can continue at full speed.