Last week, Russia's Nauka module had an unfortunate incident while docking at the International Space Station's (ISS) Zvezda module eight days after it was launched. Nauka module's engine misfired, so it affected the space station's altitude control.
But Zebulon Scoville, NASA flight director leading mission control in Houston during the incident, told The New York Times that the event is worse than previously reported, noting that there is just a little inaccuracy with the initial report.
ISS Spun One-and-a-Half Revolution
Mr. Scoville said in the interview with the Times that the International Space Station spun one-and-a-half revolution or about 540 degrees before stopping in an upside-down position. To get back to its original; orientation, ISS had to do a 180-degree forward flip.
As previously reported, no harm was done to any of the seven crew members of the space station after that Nauka docking incident. But Scoville said that his experience last week was his first time to declare a "spacecraft emergency."
He continued to explain that he was not even scheduled to work last week on July 29 as Gregory Whitney, another NASA flight director, was leading the operations on NASA's side during the docking of the Nauka module.
But they received two messages saying that something went wrong with the docking as the ISS lost its altitude control that even four large, heavy gyroscopes that usually hold the space station in place could not control it.
"And so at first I was like, 'Oh, is this a false indication?'" Mr. Scoville said in the interview with the Times. "And then I looked up at the video monitors and saw all the ice and thruster firings. This is no kidding. A real event. So let's get to it. You get about half a breath of 'Oh, geez, what now?' and then you kind of push that down and just work the problem."
What Happened During the Nauka Docking Incident
Scoville took over the docking from Whitney, who had a meeting to attend. Scoville said that the space station reached a rotation rate maximum of 0.056 degrees per second, which was not enough for the crew to feel the tilt.
NASA representatives confirmed to Space.com that Scoville's representation of the exact numbers that the space station tilted was accurate. But reiterated that it was too slow to be noticed by the astronauts aboard ISS and that all other station systems continued to operate during the docking mishap.
Moreover, they said that the initial 45-degree tilt they reported was offered during the first minutes after the event occurred, but it was later updated after analyzing the actual event.
When the ISS flipped for 540 degrees, the astronauts and the teams on the ground immediately worked to remedy the situation. He commended the calm demeanor that the team showed even when that happened. They looked at the data, figure out what was happening, and solved the problem.
They were successful in putting back the space station to its position and had the situation stabilized. In his Twitter post, Scoville exclaimed: "Yeehaw! That. Was. A. Day."
Despite the Nauka module mishap, Scoville assured that he has full confidence in the Russians and that they are fantastic to partner with NASA and the entire ISS program.
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