Manual Docking Maneuver: Glitch Or Conspiracy?

Caption says: Kopra – Malachenko – Peake – Soyuz TMA19M


Dear Readers:

Today I added a new Category, called “Space, Science and Technology”.  In order to cover these important topics in the Russian press.  Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, I will have something for you on 3-D printers.  But for today, I want to report on the latest news from the International Space Station.

I’ll start with the English-language version of the story from Yahoo.

This starts off like a joke:

An Englishman (=Major Timothy Nigel Peake), an American (=Colonel Timothy Kopra), and a Russian (=Colonel Yury Malenchenko) blast off to the space station, stroll in, and order a drink….

No, actually, the 3 astro/cosmonauts flew blissfully for 6 hours, but then were forced to execute a manual docking procedure once they arrived at the space station.  This happened yesterday.

Was Cygnus the culprit?

Next we move on to the Russian press, where conspiracy theories abound.  ‘Tis a terrible world we live in, relations between the U.S. and Russia are so awfully cocked up right now, that nobody even trusts anybody any more.  Russians believe that Americans are capable of just about any perfidy against them; and they are probably right.  Hence, there was speculation in Russian media, including reputable media like TASS, that the American cargo space craft Cygnus  had deliberately issued a radio signal, which screwed up the Soyuz communications, and forced the pilots to fall back on manual docking procedures.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

VZGLIAD interviewed Space Scientist Alexander Zheleznyakov, who debunked the various conspiracy theories.  The ground-manager of the Russian side of the Space Station, Cosmonaut Vladimir Soloviev, also dismissed the notion of American sabotage as “complete nonsense”.  Soloviev also pointed out that the Soyuz made it almost all the way to the station on auto-pilot before having to switch to manual.  He said the reasons for the technical glitch are still being investigated.  One theory is that there was “insufficient traction” (недобор тяги), in particular of the motors which drive orientation and docking.

Don’t Stop Me Now!

Whatever the causes of the technical glitch, thank goodness that everybody is okay.

English media reported that, while waiting to blast off on their interesting mission, the astro/cosmonauts listened to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now!” blasting over the sound system of the Soyuz.  And indeed, nothing was going to stop these brave pilots from reaching the space station, even if they had to roll up the sleeves of their spacesuits and dock it by hand, using ropes and duct tape!

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5 Responses to Manual Docking Maneuver: Glitch Or Conspiracy?

  1. Cortes says:

    Phew! I thought things might be serious…


  2. Thanks , I have just been searching for info about this topic for a while and yours
    is the greatest I’ve found out so far. However, what concerning the conclusion? Are
    you certain about the source?


    • yalensis says:

      Dear Walking Dead:
      Thanks for your comment!

      I’m pretty confident of the sources themselves, these Russian scientists who interviewed for the press. They’re pretty solid guys, as far as I know.
      But on the other hand, they didn’t seem to know for sure what happened.
      I haven’t seen any follow-up, I would expect there to be an investigation of the mechanical failure, and an attempt to locate root cause.
      I’ll scan the Russian online again and see if there are any new developments. If there is anything new, promise to do a follow-up piece.


    • yalensis says:

      Dear Walking Dead:
      An update:
      Commenter “Et Al” on “Kremlin Stooge” forum provided this link which explains the docking glitch and is a pretty cool story in and of itself.


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