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Soyuz Spacecraft Scenario Reminds Us Launches Are Still ‘Controlled Explosions’
A Soyuz space rocket headed to the International Space Station with a NASA astronaut and Russian cosmonaut onboard had to make an emergency landing minutes after liftoff today.
Sean O’Keefe is a University Professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and former Administrator of NASA.
“While the Soyuz has a solid record of successful launches, there have been occasional incidents with this long standing workhorse space transportation vehicle.
“I led NASA during one such incident just months after the Columbia tragedy and it was harrowing. Soyuz is a fairly standard, low complexity capsule spacecraft- think Apollo – but it is the only means left available on this planet to launch humans into space.
“We have been reliant on the Russians to transport American astronauts – and other International Space Station partners crew members – to that laboratory in space since the U.S. retired the shuttle in 2011. Meantime, we’re waiting for the NASA Orion spacecraft and the commercial SpaceX Falcon to provide alternative means to transport crew to the Station and beyond, but that’s still at least a couple of years away.
“This Soyuz incident serves as a reminder that even under the best circumstances, a launch is still a controlled explosion with humans aboard. That risk has been a big factor since the dawn of the space age and we haven’t yet conquered the technology limitations of other options yet.
“The world’s only access to space dodged a bullet today.”
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