Last week a Soyuz rocket crashed during launch from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Sitting on top of that rocket was 3.5 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the astronauts at the International Space Station. While it’s a drag that the six people floating around in space right now didn’t get the green apples and the garlic cloves they were anxiously awaiting, today NASA brought up an even gloomier possibility: evacuating the Space Station entirely.
That’s because the rocket that malfunctioned with the Progress cargo capsule on top is the same one the Russians use to send humans into space. And now that the Space Shuttle program is over, it’s the only kind of ride available to American astronauts.
So now NASA is watching the calendar. Half of the current Space Station mission crew members (Expedition 28) are scheduled to come home next month. But if the Russian Space Agency doesn’t figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, the other three crewmembers may have to jump into the last Soyuz escape capsule in November, turn out the lights when they leave, and hope the Space Station can survive without them until the next human crew arrives.