MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) – The head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency on Friday denied reports that the spacecraft that brought a crew of the International Space Station back to Earth this week had to execute a “blind landing” due to malfunctioning sensors.
“It wasn’t a blind landing,” Vladimir Popovkin told journalists, adding that mission control simply switched off an information display in the landing module of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft.
Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, one of the three people who landed aboard the Soyuz in Wednesday, said earlier Friday that most of the spacecraft’s sensors went off during landing.
“We lost almost all readings we needed to control after the separation [of the landing module],” Vinogradov said at a separate press conference.
“We basically had no readings at all,” he added, alleging that the problem could have been due to a malfunction.
The crew could not even tell their altitude from the spacecraft’s controls, though emergency services supplied some information by radio, Vinogradov said.
But Popovkin said all that was switched off was an information display, and the cosmonauts still had enough readings to tell the landing proceeded without malfunctions.
“Two dates simply overlapped in a program, and we had to turn off the [information] display so that [the readings] would not be patchy on the screen,” Popovkin said.
“All in all, it was quite a soft landing,” conceded Vinogradov, who became the oldest Russian in space after blasting off to the ISS in March, when he was 59.
The Federal Space Agency has seen a number of failed launches in recent years, though none involved manned missions. In the latest mishap, in July, a Proton rocket blew up shortly after launch because the angular velocity sensors were installed upside-down and apparently hammered in to make them fit, according to the official investigation.
The crew of the Soyuz spacecraft that landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday comprised Vinogradov, Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy.