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Russia outshines U.S. with successful cargo mission to International Space Station


A Russian rocket successfully launched and docked with the International Space Station on Wednesday, giving Russia a space-race victory of sorts over the United States after a U.S. cargo rocket exploded Tuesday night just seconds after lifting off.

Russia's Progress 57 ship docked at the space station shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, after having successfully launched from Kazakhstan early the same morning. Russia's ship supplied the space station with about three tons of food and supplies for the crew.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 10.45.59 AM Russia's cargo ship successfully launched from Kazakhstan and docked with the International Space Station Wednesday morning.
Image source: Screenshot from Space.com

In the U.S., NASA and the company it has contracted with for space missions, Orbital Sciences Corp., were still in the early stages of trying to figure out why their rocket exploded seconds after lifting off from Wallop Island, Virginia.

Tuesday night, the world watched footage of the Orbital rocket explode, and in a press conference after the event, a representative of the company said it's not clear yet what went wrong.

"What we know so far is pretty much what everybody saw on the video," said Frank Culbertson, executive vice president and general manager of advanced programs group at Orbital Sciences."

"The asset stopped, there was some, let's say, disassembly of the first stage, it looked like, and then it fell to Earth," he said. "We don't have access to all the data yet."

People who came to watch the launch walk away after an unmanned rocket owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded (background) October 28, 2014 just seconds after lift-off from Wallops Island, Virginia, on what was to be a resupply mission to the International Space Station. 'The Antares rocket suffered an accident shortly after lift-off,' NASA mission control in Houston said, describing the blast as a 'catastrophic anomaly.' AFP PHOTO / Steve ALEXANDER STEVE ALEXANDER/AFP/Getty Images

Culbertson also warned people that they should not try to collect any debris from the explosion, and should instead report it to NASA or the company. "This is an accident site, and it is a rocket, and it had a lot of… hazardous materials on board that people should not be looking for or wanting to collect souvenirs over," he said.

The U.S. rocket has more than 1,000 pounds of food, and thousands of pounds of equipment used to run science experiments on the space station. Some were student-designed experiments to examine the effects of microgravity on plant growth, and the rates of milk spoilage in space.

Culbertson said Orbital craft would not fly again until it's known what happened, and how to apply lessons learned to other spacecraft.

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