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Rocket Porn: ISS Expedition 32 Launches From The Baikonur Cosmodrome

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The space program is dead. Long live the space program! The United States may not be launching any manned missions to space from inside its borders anymore, but that doesn’t stop NASA from sending people up to the International Space Station aboard Russia’s rockets. This past Saturday, while thousands of Americans were waiting to hear the latest Iron Man 3 news out of Comic-Con, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko along with JAXA Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA Astronaut Sunita Williams launched into space aboard the Soyuz TMA-05M rocket.

While Americans have gone through a ton of money designing and flying a series increasingly more complicated vehicles to space, the Russians have used the same basic rocket design since the late 60’s. Even though it suffered two fatal accidents early in its program,Russia’s singular manned rocket is largely considered to be the most reliable and cost effective method of space travel. Now that NASA’s shuttle program has ended, the United States pays $60 million per round trip to the ISS. That’s a lot of green, but unfortunately right now, there is no other option as Russia holds a monopoly on human space flight. But hey, at least $30 million of that money is paid for the privilege of being launched from a place called “the Cosmodrome”. Sorry America, “Launch Complex” just doesn’t have the same Bond Villain ring to it.

With its relative low cost and endurance, should American’s be following Russia’s lead in the space flight department? America’s imminent return to an old style capsule system in lieu of the ultra-complicated space plane design the shuttle went for would seem to suggest that we are doing just that. One thing that future American vehicles won’t do that the Soyuz does, is land on the ground. In an effort to make their space vehicle as cost effective as possible, the Soviet government decided to do away with the need for a costly ocean retrieval and have the space craft be made to land on the ground. Ask any American astronaut and they will tell you that while the ride up on a Soyuz is smooth, the landing is their least favorite part. Some have even likened the landing experience to being in a car crash, so that’s one feature that American’s won’t be missing from their time with Soyuz.

If the interior of the Soyuz looks familiar in the launch video, it may be because you saw this excellent re-creation of the Soyuz in last season’s Big Bang Theory finale…

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