Russia launched an unmanned cargo ship that was supposed to deliver food, oxygen, and supplies to the International Space Station on Tuesday. However, the spacecraft started erratically spinning soon after reaching orbit and could plummet back to Earth in the next ten days. It will definitely not try to finish its mission, as trying to dock a spinning spacecraft is not advisable, unless you are Sandra Bullock.
As one official told the AFP, “It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go. It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun.”
Cathleen Lewis, a specialist in Russian space programs at the National Air and Space Museum in D.C. told the BBC there is no reason to freak out about space debris falling on your head. “I always remind people that two-thirds of Earth’s surface is water. The likelihood of it coming down and hitting someone is so remote as to be miniscule.”
Only 3 percent of Earth is heavily populated. If the spacecraft does end up making an unexpected early flight back home, it will be going so fast that most of it will evaporate in flames, leaving only a few fragments of debris left that could potentially fall on land. This type of spacecraft is designed to aim for the South Pacific, where the ocean is a very big target.
The cost of the failed project could reach 5 billion rubles, or $62 million.
In good news, the six astronauts aboard the International Space Station have enough supplies to last a few more months, although they will have to perhaps have to budget resources more carefully. “We should be OK,” NASA astronaut Scott Kelly told The Associated Press. “I think we’re going to be in good shape.”
The next delivery is scheduled to take place on June 19.