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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 05:44 GMT 06:44 UK
Rocket reaches space station
By the BBC's Simon Watts

A Russian cargo rocket has docked safely at the International Space Station (ISS), bringing much-needed supplies to the two astronauts on board.

Since the Columbia disaster put the US space shuttle programme on hold, Russian cargo rockets and crew capsules have been the only link between the space station and Earth.

The Soyuz space vehicle is shown docked at the International Space Station
Russia says it cannot continue maintaining the ISS alone
Sixteen nations were involved in building the station, but Russian officials say they are now shouldering most of the burden of keeping it going.

The cargo on the Russian Progress rocket shows what astronauts Edward Lu and Yuri Malenchenko have been missing during their time in space.

Alongside the food and scientific equipment are comedy films, CDs and magazines.

But in a reminder of the current concerns about the safety of space exploration, there are also a set of satellite phones.

The need for the phones was shown in May when the last astronauts to leave the Space Station landed 500 kilometres off course in a remote part of Central Asia.

They were unable to contact rescue teams, and were only found two hours later after a frantic search.

Regular flights

Before the Columbia disaster, the astronauts would probably have been flown home on one of the regular space shuttle flights, rather than in a Soyuz capsule.

Russian space officials say the current situation cannot continue.

They say they are supplying the station almost single-handedly, without enough financial help from the Americans.

When the space station was launched, it was hailed as an example of international scientific co-operation.

The Russians say that without more co-operation soon, the station faces an uncertain future.


SEE ALSO:
Space crew tell of landing drama
04 May 03  |  Science/Nature


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