The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) welcomed the arrival of fuel, water, and most importantly food - not to mention Christmas presents - all packed inside a Russian cargo spacecraft that successfully docked with the orbital facility today.
The Progress 16 resupply ship docked with the space station over Central Asia at 6:58 p.m. EST (2358 GMT), capping two days of spaceflight and a flawless Dec. 23 launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"We're very happy that we have a new Progress at the station," said NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, commander of the Expedition 10 mission currently at the ISS, to ground controllers after the docking. "Thanks for coming in on Christmas...we're going to go have our Christmas dinner now."
Progress 16 is the first spacecraft to resupply Chiao and Expedition 10 flight engineer Salizhan Sharipov since they boarded the ISS in October. It delivered just over 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) of cargo, including 1,234 pounds (559 kilograms) of propellant, 926 (420 kilograms) pounds of water and 2,700 pounds (1,224 kilograms) of equipment and other dry cargo.
The spacecraft also brought 69 containers of much-needed food the space station, where supplies had slipped so low that Chiao and Sharipov took measures to limit their caloric intake and NASA officials drew up plans to evacuate the space station.
Inside those containers was a 112-day supply of Russian and American food, about twice as much as Expedition 10 requires until the next supply shipment, NASA commentators said.
Today's Progress docking was originally scheduled for 6:31 p.m. EST (2331 GMT), while both the supply ship and ISS were out of direct communications range with ground stations in Russia. Russian flight controllers decided to intentionally delay the docking until the two spacecraft passed overhead and were able to transmit real-time telemetry and video feeds.
"Thank you for your support and Happy New Year," Sharipov told Russian mission controllers.
Despite Progress 16's holiday arrival, Chaio and Sharipov will not immediately open their fresh batch of food, supplies and Christmas gifts. The two astronauts are scheduled to begin unpacking the new cargo ship on Sunday, Dec. 26.
Chiao and Sharipov also anticipate the arrival of a second cargo ship, Progress 17, on March 2, 2005.
- Complete Coverage: ISS Expedition 10