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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 December, 2004, 02:51 GMT
Vital food reaches space station
International Space Station
Floating in zero gravity can be a hungry business
An unmanned Russian spaceship carrying food has docked with the International Space Station, where supplies had been running dangerously low.

The Progress craft reached the ISS on Saturday at 2358 GMT, 27 minutes later than predicted and more than a day after taking off from Kazakhstan.

It was carrying 2.5 tonnes of food, water, fuel and oxygen, and Christmas presents for the two crewmen.

Their mission would have been aborted had the supplies not reached them.

Russian and US officials were alarmed when they learned earlier this month how much food Russia's Salizhan Sharipov and Leroi Chiao from the US had got through.

They only had enough food supplies left to last them until mid-January.

Rules say that when there is less than 45 days' supply of food, water or air, the crew must prepare to evacuate.

The two men are due to collect their supplies from the Progress craft at 1800 GMT on Sunday.

Long mission

The crew had reportedly been ordered to cut back on meals to preserve their supply.

The Progress M-51 successfully took off from the launching pad in Kazakhstan in the early hours of Friday.

The craft entered orbit 200km (124 miles) above the earth about nine minutes later.

The Russian cosmonaut and US astronaut are into their second month on the station.

Long-duration missions in space like the ISS demand a constant supply of consumable materials from Earth.

Russian spacecraft have supplied the ISS since the Columbia disaster in February 2003 brought a halt to flights by the larger US space shuttle.

US space agency Nasa has said it plans to revive its shuttle programme in May 2005.

Watch the capsule dock with the space station

Cargo ship reaches space station
31 Jan 04 |  Science/Nature
Space station crew back on Earth
28 Oct 03 |  Science/Nature

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