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Helium Leak On Russian Craft Reveals National Secret
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KOROLEV, Russia - Russian space authorities have said that the helium leak recently discovered in the Soyuz return capsule never posed a threat to the returning space station occupants. "We only need the helium to lift the craft above the atmosphere," explained Russian engineer Yuri Wedropoff, "Once on orbit, the helium is expelled into space so the capsule can float back down." While not posing a threat, it is somewhat embarrassing for the Russian agency, as they have been forced to admit that they have not been using rockets to lift their spacecraft.

"Rocket engines are quite expensive," said one unnamed source in the Russian Space Agency, "So it was decided early in the 1990's to stop using them and turn to other methods. One day I saw a young child lose his helium balloon. Up, up, up it went. And that's when I knew we had overlooked the very simplest of answers."

The successful return of the Soyuz 7 craft Friday vindicated the claims, but NASA officials still expressed dismay that the Russians have not been using real rockets. "We pay them thirty million dollars per launch. That's a chunk less than a shuttle launch, and half of it is for on-orbit support, but does it really take fifteen million to let go of a big balloon?" complained one. Careful review of photos and videos of Soyuz launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome have helped explain the rocket-like appearance of the vehicle. "Not unlike SuperSoaker's 'Monster Rocket' toy, the Soyuz lifting vehicle is essentially a giant balloon. The fire-like exhaust seen trailing the craft on lift-off is generated by a pocket of hydrogen, set aflame at lift-off. It is for effect only. It does not provide any actual thrust," explained NASA engineer Len Belckner.

The revelation is not expected to affect future launch schedules. "You have to admit, it works," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, "And our engineers can't poke any holes in it. I mean, they can't find any problems with it. You know what I mean."
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