Russian cargo capsule prevent recall of two astronauts

An unmanned Russian Progress &to=http:// ' target=_blank>cargo capsule filled with critical food and water supplies, as well as Christmas gifts from family members, successfully docked with the international space station late Saturday, preventing a recall of the two-man crew.

Without the Progress and its 5,000-pound cargo, U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov would have been forced to abandon the 230-mile-high orbital base within two weeks because of a dwindling food supply.

The &to=http:// 22/101/399/14706_christmas.html ' target=_blank>Christmas shipment, which included food rations for 112 days, drinking water, air supplies, fuel, spare parts and research gear, clears the way for the two men to work toward the scheduled completion of their six-month mission in late April. Another Progress supply ship is scheduled to arrive in early March. Saturday's linkup, at 5:58 p.m. CST, was supervised by Russia's Mission Control outside Moscow. It was closely monitored at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston as well, wrote the Houston Chronicle.

Russian and American space officials were alarmed earlier this month to learn that supplies at the station were running out, and ordered the crew to cut back on meals. Russian Mission Control officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the crew had run out of meat and fish but still had other food, such as cereals and biscuits.

&to=http:// ' target=_blank>NASA said there was enough food to last seven to 14 days beyond Dec. 25, but warned that the crew would have to return to Earth if Progress didn't successfully dock at the station. "I don't remember ever encountering such situation in 40 years," Semyonov told reporters at the Mission Control.

He blamed previous crews for picking the best food and leaving Sharipov and Chiao with the staples, reports San Francisco Chronicle.

An international team was looking into how the station's food inventory ended up being tracked so poorly.

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