AN UNMANNED Russian cargo spacecraft ferrying supplies to the International Space Station is plunging back to Earth — and Moscow says it can’t stop it.
The loss of the Progress supply ship, a Soviet design known for its reliability, is the latest embarrassment for Russia’s space program that has been recently hit by a series of mishaps.
Grim-faced officials from the Russian space agency told a hastily arranged news conference that the capsule had been lost.
“Most likely it is some sort of unforeseen situation related to the separation of the ship from the carrier,” Alexander Ivanov, deputy chief of the Roscosmos state agency, said.
“It is impossible to say now who is guilty and of what.”
Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov said the vessel’s debris is likely to burn up in the atmosphere, estimating the cost of the launch and the spacecraft at nearly 2.6 billion roubles ($63.34 million).
Roscosmos estimates that the vessel will disintegrate some time between May 5-7.
A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress M-27M spacecraft with supplies for the ISS successfully launched on Tuesday but communication with the vessel was lost soon afterwards.
A Russian official familiar with the situation told AFP the capsule had begun descending.
“It has nowhere else to go,” he said. “It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun.”
Russian officials said earlier on Wednesday attempts to contact the spacecraft had been unsuccessful, raising fears it could be lost for good.
“There have been no improvements,” a mission control spokesman said.
The controllers had on Tuesday opted to change the flight plan and extend the vessel’s journey to two days instead of six hours in a bid to fix the glitch.
The ship had been scheduled to dock with the ISS, where the international crew of six people is awaiting the cargo, on April 30.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who commanded the ISS on his final mission, said the Progress will slowly fall to Earth before disintegrating.