Launches, dockings and near disasters on your Spacevidcast Daily for May 3rd, 2010Last Wednesday, April 28th at 17:15 UTC a Russian Soyuz-U carrier rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome en route to the International Space Station. Aboard the rocket was the Progress 37P spacecraft. And aboard the craft was fresh food and supplies for the Expedition 23 crew aboard the Space Station. The cool thing about the Progress-M spacecraft is that it employs an automated docking mechanism to glide it in and safely have it dock with the International Space Station. This automated system is known as Kurs and has been in use by Russia since the Mir space station days. Of course in an emergency an astronaut or cosmonaut can take manual control over the spacecraft locally or from the International Space Station. And that's just what happened.During rendezvous operations, when the spacecraft was about a kilometer from the space station, the Kurs system failed. No problem. Cosmonaut Oleg Kotov used the backup TORU system to manually control the Progress vehicle in to a safe and stable dock. Oleg has now set a record for the furthest distance a Progress spacecraft has flown under manual control.If the TORU or Teleoperated Mode of (spacecraft) Control rings a bell, that's because on June 25th, 1997 it became quite famous. During a test of the Progress 234 docking system with the Mir space station, the Progress vehicle slammed in to the Mir causing a rupture in the Spektr module which in turn began depressurizing the station itself. This also cause the Mir to go into a spin which then caused a power outage. Without power the spin became uncontrolled. Ground control sent a command to Mir to fire the engines trying to help reduce the spin and get the station back under control. Fortunately the Cosmonauts were able to get the systems back online, get Mir in to a stable orbit and no one was hurt. I wonder if Kotov was thinking of the Mir incident when he glided the Progress vehicle in to a smooth docking using the TORU system.