A Russian space station supply ship crashed with a thunderous boom into Siberia minutes after launch Wednesday, rattling NASA and others in this new era without any shuttles to bail out the orbiting outpost.
The rocket failed barely a month after NASA’s final space shuttle flight.
While the International Space Station has more than enough supplies, the accident threatens to delay the launch of the next crew, just one month away. That’s because the upper stage of the unmanned Soyuz rocket that failed is similar to the ones used to launch astronauts to the station.
In addition, three of the six space station residents who are due to return to Earth in two weeks might end up staying longer. NASA wants a full staff to keep research going. The astronauts were just beginning to spend more time on scientific experiments, now that the station is complete.
The Soyuz rocket soared right on time from Kazakhstan, and everything seemed to be going perfectly until just over five minutes into the flight. The third-stage ignited, but the rocket commanded the engine to shut down because of a problem.
All contact with the spacecraft was lost. Russian space officials declared it a total failure after reports of wreckage falling with a deafening roar in a remote area of Siberia.
Without the shuttles, NASA now is counting on Russia, Europe and Japan, as well as private U.S. businesses, to keep the station stocked. The Russians had 3 tons of supplies aboard the Progress ship that was destroyed.