The astronauts semi-stranded on the International Space Station got some much-needed supplies over the July 4th weekend as an unmanned Russian resupply craft called the Progress 60 docked with the ISS at around 3:11 a.m. EST this morning.
The 106 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, 1,940 pounds of extra propellant and 3,133 pounds of spare parts it delivered come on the heels of three previous failed attempts to bring ISS crew members new supplies. The most recent and high profile failure was the SpaceX Falcon 9, which was set to bring the ISS its groceries and assorted doo-dads before its unmanned rocket exploded moments after takeoff.
American astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending an entire year in space, described the Russian re-up as something akin to “Christmas in July.”
Though the astronauts had enough supplies to last until October and have an escape pod on board, the craft was running low on key life-sustaining supplies like onboard filters that process and recycle water. They also needed room to take out the garbage. The unmanned cargo capsule will now be used as a sort of garbage dump, and will stay in place for a few months before returning to Earth.
The successful docking will let officials breathe a sigh of relief after the failed resupply missions upped the tension for the mission. But the success is also a bit worrisome for NASA, who is increasingly dependent on Russian rockets to successfully achieve their mission goals, especially after the similar American craft continually failed.
But at least the astronauts can rest easy now that the pantry is full. They can also expect more to come. A Japanese mission is set for August and another American resupply mission is scheduled for sometime late this year.