Russian Cargo Ship Finally Docks at International Space Station

An unmanned Russian cargo ship fully docked at the international space station Thursday, after Mission Control solved a problem that had prevented the spacecraft from latching firmly onto the space outpost.

The Progress M-58 cargo ship, carrying supplies to the station's three-man crew, docked at the station at 6:28 p.m. Moscow time (1428 GMT) on autopilot, as planned.

Mission Control could not confirm, however, that its antenna had folded as required for the ferry to clamp securely on the station, Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin told The Associated Press.

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Current crew members — Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, U.S. astronaut Michal Lopez-Alegria and German Thomas Reiter — were unable to unload the ship until the problem was solved, Lyndin said.

But even if the ship could not be unloaded quickly, Russian space officials said the crew faced no danger and had enough oxygen, water and food.

After 3 1/2 hours of tense deliberations and discussions, Mission Control experts, working by radio command, moved the Progress about 40 centimeters (16 inches) back and then again latched it onto the station.

"The crew has confirmed that the attempt was successful, and the ship has been latched securely onto the station," Lyndin told the AP.

Lyndin said it was possible that the antenna had folded as required, but that a computer glitch had made it impossible for Mission Control to confirm that.

Tyurin faced a similar problem nearly five years ago, when he and crew mate Vladimir Dezhurov had to venture outside the station to remove an O-ring rubber seal that had jammed docking mechanisms.

The two cosmonauts cut away the long, twisted seal in a December 2001 space walk.

It is essential for the ship to clamp firmly onto the station before pressurizing the connection to allow the crew get access to supplies.

The Progress ship, which lifted off Monday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was delivering about 2.3 metric tons (2.5 U.S. tons) of equipment, water and food, including roast quail and other gourmet dishes by French celebrity chef Alain Ducasse intended for special occasions.

It also carried equipment for repairing a Russian-built oxygen generator that overheated and spilled a toxic irritant last month, forcing the crew to don masks and gloves in the first emergency ever declared aboard the 8-year-old station.

Russian and U.S. space officials downplayed the incident with the Elektron device, saying crew members' lives were never in any danger.

The station has plenty of oxygen reserves and alternative oxygen generating devices to make up for the broken Elektron until it is fixed.

The Progress also was delivering letters, compact discs, DVDs and other gifts to the crew members.