April 7, 2008

Space Station Crew Discards Russian Cargo Ship

Astronauts aboard the International
Space Station (ISS) jettisoned a Russian cargo ship packed with trash early
Monday to clear a parking spot for an incoming crew.

The unmanned space
freighter Progress 28 undocked
from its Earth-facing berth on the station's
Russian-built Pirs docking compartment at 4:50 a.m.
EDT (0850 GMT), freeing up the port for the planned April 10 arrival of three
new astronauts
, NASA officials said.

Three hours later, the Progress 28
spacecraft fired its rocket engine to begin a fiery plunge through the Earth's
atmosphere that ended with its intentional destruction over the Pacific
Ocean. Russian space officials said some debris survived reentry, but splashed
down well away from populated waters.

"The drop zone for spaceship
fragments, which did not burn in dense layers of the atmosphere, was located
away from navigation routes, about 3,000 kilometers east of the New Zealand
capital city of Wellington," Russia's Federal Space Agency spokesperson Valery Lyndin told the Russian Interfax News Agency.

Expedition 16 station
commander Peggy Whitson
and flight engineers Yuri Malenchenko
and Garrett Reisman salvaged the Progress 28's Kurs automated docking system hardware for return to Earth
before loading the space freighter with trash and unneeded equipment, Lyndin said.

The astronauts also began unloading
their newest cargo ship - the European-built space freighter Jules Verne, which
docked last week
- early Saturday, NASA officials added.

The disposal of Progress 28 clears
the way for the arrival of a new Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft carrying Expedition 17
commander Sergei Volkov,
flight engineer Oleg Kononenko and So-yeon Yi, South Korea's first astronaut.

Yi and the Expedition 17 crew are
poised to launch toward the station on Tuesday at 7:16 a.m. EDT (1116 GMT). They
will lift off atop a Russian-built Soyuz rocket from the Central Asian
spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome
in Kazakhstan.

Volkov, a second-generation
, and Kononenko will relieve Whitson and
Malenchenko, who are nearing the end of a six-month
mission aboard the station that began last October. Reisman
will aboard the ISS to join the Expedition 17 crew.

Yi, a 29-year-old mechanical
engineer, will fly a 10-day mission to the station under a commercial agreement
between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the South Korean government. She is
due to return to Earth on April 19 with Whitson and Malenchenko
aboard their Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft.

NASA will broadcast the
launch of Expedition 17 toward the ISS live on NASA TV beginning at 6:15 a.m.
EDT (1015 GMT). Click here for SPACE.com's NASA TV feed and live ISS mission updates.