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Space station crew lucky to survive re-entry: agency

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) April 22, 2008
Three astronauts were lucky to survive a dangerous re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere last week, a Russian news agency reported Tuesday, citing a source close to an investigation into the incident.

"The fact that the crew members remained unharmed, in one piece, was very lucky. Everything could have ended much worse," the source was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. Their fate was "on a razor's edge," he said.

South Korea's first astronaut and her Russian and US colleagues on Monday said they were recovering well after an unconventional "ballistic" descent to Earth on Saturday that landed hundreds of kilometres (miles) off target.

Interfax's source said the Russian-designed Soyuz landing capsule was facing the wrong direction when it entered the atmosphere, depriving it of the protection of its heat-resistant shield.

"If the hatch had been burnt through and the nearby... parachute damaged, the crew might not have survived," the source was quoted as saying.

Korean scientist Yi So-Yeon was returning from a nine-day visit to the International Space Station with NASA's Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko, who each spent over six months on board.

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Stephen Hawking urges new era of space conquest
Washington (AFP) April 21, 2008
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking called Monday for a new era of space conquest akin to Christopher Columbus' discovery of the new world, in a speech on the 50th anniversary of NASA space agency.

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