Daily Telegraph: While millions of people in Britain are contemplating with grim resignation the hours of travel involved in their Easter getaway, three men are celebrating a spectacularly swift cosmic getaway.
The trio – two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut – have managed to knock 45 hours off the usual travel time to the International Space Station, completing what was formerly a 50-hour journey in just under six hours.
It means that it is now possible to reach the space station in less time than it takes some drivers to travel from London to Cornwall or Devon.
Blasting off from the Russian-run Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, instead of orbiting the Earth 30 times, the crew made only four circumnavigations of the globe before docking.
The rapid journey – which Nasa’s official television commentator called a “chase into space” – was made possible by launching the Soyuz rocket just after the space station passed overhead.
After reaching orbit, the Soyuz capsule then had just over 1,000 miles to make up to catch the station, which it achieved thanks to improved thrusters and manoeuvring.
The three men – Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin from Russia, and the American Chris Cassidy – are expected to spend the next five months aboard the station after their problem-free launch and docking.
The successful fast-track voyage is a huge boost for the embattled Russian space programme, whose reputation had been battered by several failed satellite launches in the past year. After the retirement of the US space shuttle, Russia is now the sole nation capable of transporting humans to the space station.
(illustration photo credits: freedigitalphotos.net)
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