October 11, 2008
Improvements Made For Safer Souyez Landings
Officials with Russia's space program said Saturday that a number of safety improvements have been made for spacecrafts returning to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS).
The announcement follows a series of rough landings, including two malfunctions with the Soyuz re-entry vehicle during the past year. The mishaps raised safety concerns about the craft's reliability, with one South Korean astronaut saying she feared death during a landing in April.
However, Anatoly Perminov, chief of Russia's space agency, said all potential glitches have been eliminated.
"A working commission has given us a list of recommendations. We have done everything according to it as of today. And this should lead to a normal landing and not a ballistic one. It's a very important goal," Perminov said, referring to ballistic landings, which are steeper than normal ones.
Perminov made his remarks the day before a U.S.-Russian team will take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The mission will launch at 0503 GMT on Sunday, with U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott traveling together to the ISS.
"A U.S. delegation of specialists has visited here and they looked into it in all detail and they were satisfied," Perminov said.
The team is set to return to earth on October 24 aboard a three-man capsule that will land in the open steppes of Kazakhstan.
Richard Garriott, a video game magnate and the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, paid more than $30 million to take part in the mission. He and the other two members of the team appeared confident ahead of the mission's launch.
"I've simulated the ballistic reentry in the centrifuge many times," Garriott said.
"And so if that were to occur, I would not be terribly alarmed."
Image Caption: Soyuz TM-33 lands in Kazakhstan.