An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft has delivered supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) team.
On Friday, November 29, the cargo ship docked with the ISS' Zvevsda service module at 5.30 p.m. EST and delivered nearly three tons of food, supplies, fuel and holiday presents to the Expedition 38 crew, which was orbiting the outpost.
The Progress 53 spacecraft had launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 25. It carried with it 800 kgs of propellant, 1,415 kgs of spare parts, holiday gifts and experiment hardware, 22 kgs of oxygen, 26 kgs of air and 419 kgs of water.
Usually, the Progress spacecraft takes a day or two to dock with the orbiting outpost. However, this particular spacecraft was testing a new automated docking system before approaching the destination and met with some hiccups along the way.
According to NASA officials, the Kurs system that was deployed tested "flawlessly" but the docking was not as smooth. Apparently, the automated system switched to a mode that was not anticipated as the spacecraft flew in the direction of the station. This unexpected mode in turn compelled Oleg Kotov, a Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 83 crew member to take reins of the docking and bring the spacecraft smoothly over to the port.
"The Kurs system had brought the Progress automatically in from station keeping mode from a distance of just 70 meters away from the space station," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during live coverage of the docking. "Then, at the 60 meter mark, the Kurs system unexpectedly went into a station keeping mode for the Progress that defaulted automatically, causing Oleg Kotov - the Expedition 38 commander - to take over manual control of the flying of the Progress at a distance of just 60 meters, manually guiding in the Progress on a joystick from a command panel in the Zvezda service module as he slowly but surely guided the Progress in for a smooth and uneventful link up."
The Expedition 83 crew comprises Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin, Sergey Ryazanskiy, along with Kotov on the station. It also includes NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins, as well as Kiochi Wakata, a Japanese space agency astronaut.