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Three astronauts return to Earth after fixing undocking glitch

Saturday, September 25, 2010 01:32:18 PM, DPA

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Washington: A Russian Soyuz capsule landed Saturday in Kazakhstan, returning three residents of the International Space Station to Earth a day later than planned because of an undocking malfunction.

Parachutes braked the descent of the Soyuz re-entry craft as it landed on the steppe of southern Kazakhstan near Arkalyk, with Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko and American Tracy Caldwell Dyson on board, the US space agency said. The trio had spent six months in space.

The Soyuz undocked from the space station Saturday after the crew made repairs to fix the problem in the station's docking module that delayed their departure, originally scheduled for Friday.

Hooks had failed to open to release the Soyuz from the station, and the crew and engineers on the ground later determined that the problem occurred because of a failed hatch sensor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.

The malfunction prevented mission control in Moscow from receiving the "hatch lock" signal although the seals between the station and Soyuz capsule were functioning properly, NASA said.

Station flight engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin then installed jumper cables to bypass the malfunctioning sensor, allowing the Soyuz to undock at 0202 GMT Saturday.

It was the first time in the station's history that a Soyuz capsule had not departed from the station as planned. The problem came shortly after a July incident in which an unmanned Russian cargo rocket veered out of control and flew past the space station as it was trying to dock there.

After undocking Saturday, the Soyuz performed a separation burn to move 12 km away from the station as it headed back to Earth. Less than an hour before landing, it fired its rockets again for a de-orbit burn, which slows the spacecraft, for its 0523 GMT landing.

The station's current three-member crew is scheduled to be replenished with the October 7 launch of a Soyuz capsule from the Russian space centre at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, with cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochka and astronaut Scott Kelly on board.

They are to dock two days later with the station.







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