30 Apr 2015

Out-of-control Russian Space Capsule

From Our Changing World, 9:55 pm on 30 April 2015

by Veronika Meduna

The failed Russian capsule Progress 59 is expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere this week, burning up in the process. 

The unmanned supply ship took off on 28 April, destined to dock with the International Space Station. But shortly after liftoff, the capsule experienced technical difficulties. The Russian mission control team re-established contact with the capsule but has been unable to bring the craft back on its intended route. Since then, tonnes of fresh vegetables, water and personal care parcels from family members of ISS astronauts have been spinning in orbit, out-of-control.

Current forecasts predict that the capsule should fall back to Earth on 8 May.

Space scientist Duncan Steel says the capsule crosses New Zealand twice a day: once travelling (at about 7.8 km per second) from north-west to south-east and passing over the middle of the South Island, and a few hours later from south-west to north-east travelling over the Tasman Sea just to the west of the South Island and then crossing the North Island near Auckland.