Earlier in the month, a Russian cargo ship failed after what appeared to be a successful launch out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Once it escaped the Earth’s atmosphere however, it appears to have exploded, destroying all of the supplies and equipment that it had on board to resupply the International Space Station.
Fortunately, the explosion didn’t harm the International Space Station, and more importantly, the supplies that were onboard the cargo craft were not critically needed so the astronauts on the International Space Station were able to hang on for a bit longer until additional help could be sent out.
On December 9th, Japan launched a backup cargo ship carrying 4.5 tons of supplies, including food, resources, and scientific experiments to resupply the International Space Station following the failed Russian attempt earlier in the month. The cargo ship made a successful departure and arrived at the International Space Station on December 13th.
Image Credit: Shane Kimbrough/NASA
Once there, the International Space Station’s robotic arm grabbed hold of the cargo ship and carefully attached it to one of the onboard hatches, where the space station’s six astronauts could access it and rummage the goodies out of it.
Now that the International Space Station astronauts have a fresh new batch of food and supplies, they don’t have to worry about running low, and to add to that, they have a whole truckload of new scientific experiments they can perform to keep them busy for time to come.
Fortunately, the International Space Station is purposely over-supplied at any given time for emergency situations just like this one…
By carefully planning these resupply missions to launch earlier than they have to, the astronauts have an overlap between when food is needed and when there’s just enough, which means if a cargo ship should fail like the Russian one did at the beginning of December, there is still plenty of food left to last until Earthbound crews can launch another resupply attempt.
The cargo ship was also reportedly carrying new batteries to replace those in the aging solar arrays that power the International Space Station, so you can probably expect to see another spacewalk at some point in the future to get those installed.