ISS Astronauts Discard Russian Cargo Ship

ISS Astronauts Discard Russian Cargo Ship
The unmanned Russian cargo ship Progress 20 drifts away from the International Space Station (ISS) on June 19, 2006 after being discarded by the Expedition 13 crew. The vehicle is packed with trash and destined to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.
(Image: © NASA TV.)

Thetwo-astronaut crew of the InternationalSpace Station (ISS) discarded a trash-filled Russian cargo ship Monday tomake way for a new supply craft arriving later this month.

ISSExpedition 13 commander PavelVinogradov and flight engineer JeffreyWilliams jettisoned the unmanned Progress 20 spacecraft from its berth atthe space station's Russian-built Pirs docking compartment at 11:08 a.m. EDT (1508GMT). The spacecraft delivered about 2.5 tons of fresh food, clothing, toolsand other vital equipment to the station in late December2005.

Afterdeparting the ISS with a load of trash and unneeded items, Progress 20 wasprogrammed to destroy itself by burning up in the Earth's atmosphere, which thespacecraft should have encountered at about 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT), NASAofficials said.

WithProgress 20's departure, the station's Pirs docking port is now free for a newRussian spacecraft - Progress 22 - scheduled to launch toward the ISS from BaikonurCosmodrome, Kazakhstan on June 24. The new cargo ship will dock at the ISS at12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) on June 26, NASA said.

Two otherRussian spacecraft are currently docked at the ISS. The unmanned cargo ship Progress21 sits at the aft end of the station's Zvezda module, while the Soyuz vehiclethat ferriedthe Expedition 13 crew to the ISS in late March-early April is berthed at a porton the Zarya control module.

AwaitingDiscovery

In additionto preparing themselves for Progress 22's arrival, Vinogradov and Williams arealso readying the ISS for the space shuttle Discovery and its STS-121 crew. Theshuttle - NASA's second orbiter to fly since the 2003 Columbia accident - isscheduled to launchtoward the ISS on July 1 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"I'm ready,I hope it's July 1," Williams told ISS flight controllers this weekend whenNASA set the STS-121 launch date. "We'll be watching."

Commandedby veteran shuttle astronaut Steven Lindsey, the STS-121 crew isexpected to dock at the ISS on July 3 during a 12-day mission to the orbitallaboratory. The test flight will not only check shuttle repair and inspectiontechniques, but also deliver vital supplies and one new crewmember to thespace station.

Germanastronaut Thomas Reiter, of the European Space Agency (ESA), will ride to theISS aboard Discovery and join the Expedition 13 crew for the remainder of theirsix-month mission, NASA said. Reiter will stay aboard the ISS and join the Expedition14 crew until his replacement, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, arrives inDecember during the planned STS-116 shuttle mission, the space agency said.

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