Supply Ship Successfully Docks at Space Station

From Associated Press

An unmanned cargo ship on a vital supply mission docked early today at the international space station, carrying badly needed food for a U.S.-Russian crew that has been forced to ration dwindling supplies.

The Progress M-51 also carried Christmas presents from families and friends, said officials at Russian mission control outside Moscow.

The spaceship, which lifted off Friday from the remote Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carried about 2 1/2 tons of food, water, fuel and research equipment for Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao.


Food stocks shrank dramatically when the pair took over at the station less than two months ago, alarming space officials from both nations. The crew had been ordered to cut back on their meals.

NASA had said the men had only enough food to last two weeks beyond Christmas and would have to return to Earth early if the supply mission failed.

But Russian mission control officials sought to downplay those concerns, saying the crew had enough food for another month.

Russian Soyuz crew capsules and Progress cargo ships have been the only link to the space station since the U.S. shuttle fleet was grounded after Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry in 2003.

NASA plans to resume its shuttle program in May.