The Russian Progress M-28M rocket successfully departed for the International Space Station today. After two supply mission failures in a row – the space community has much to ponder.
Scientists and industry experts held their collective breath as Progress lifted from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is expected to deliver 2, 381 kilos worth of supplies to the ISS on Sunday.
Two of the most recent missions to the ISS – a Falcon 9 rocket that took off last Sunday, and a Russian rocket that took off on April 28 – had failed.
This is besides the failure of the Antares rocket in October 2014.
Eric Berger, science reporter for the Houston Chronicle, expressed the general ethos that has accompanied this latest Progress mission – it was all a bit too close for comfort, particularly considering the difficulties faced by the Russian space program in recent years:
Glad Progress made it. But not thrilled we're all up late, on pins and needles willing on a Russian rocket to save our $150 billion station.— Eric Berger (@chronsciguy) July 3, 2015
Even though the ISS technically has enough supplies to last it until October, the sheer amount of money that is lost every time an unmanned supply mission goes awry gives experts pause.
Not to mention the fact that rocket failures also negatively affect plans to re-launch crewed space missions in the U.S. The space sector is risk-averse – it is particularly risk averse when actual human lives are involved.
Berger blamed Washington’s complacent treatment of the Space Shuttle program for our collective current woes:
Sunday, meanwhile, is set to be another nerve-wracking day for the ISS programme and all who take a keen interest in it.