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ISS Crew Return Delayed Due To Undocking Problems

September 24, 2010

Three members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew set to depart for a return trip to Earth on Friday will be forced to wait another day due to issues encountered while trying to undock.

According to a statement posted to the NASA website, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko and American astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson were forced to return to the space station after attempts to release the hooks and latches securing the Soyuz TMA-18 vehicle that was to carry them home failed to disengage.

“The preliminary analysis, according to the technical commission, showed that a false signal appeared in the onboard computer system about the lack of a hermetic junction after closing the hatch on the station,” Anatoly Perminov, the head of Roscosmos, told Russian television reporters following the incident, according to Associated Press (AP) writer Jim Heintz.

“Engineers are continuing to troubleshoot the problem,” NASA reports on their official website. “Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin sent down video and still photos of a small star-shaped gear with two broken teeth, and experts are evaluating whether the part is related to the commanding problem.”

The departure of the three ISS crew members, who Perminov confirms are all in good health, is now tentatively set for 10:02pm Friday evening, which would result in a 1:21am EDT landing near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. The crew was set to awaken at 10:30am this morning to begin preparations for rescheduled undocking, according to the U.S. space agency.

“We could have done it [the undocking] today but we need extra time to avoid further risks,” Perminov added, according to a BBC News report. “There is no reason to rush. The most important thing is the guarantee the safety of the crew.”

Back in July, a similar problem occurred with a Russian supply ship, according to Heintz. That craft was unable to dock due to “the activation of a transmitter for the manual rendezvous system, which overrode the automated system,” the AP reporter said. A second attempt, some 48 hours later, was successful, he added.

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