Thursday, April 01, 2010

Russian Soyuz to Launch New Station Crew Friday

Soyuz FG rocket stands tall in Kazakhstan. (Energia)

Three new crew members will lift-off on Friday from the deserts of Kazakhstan to begin a six month excursion aboard the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko, and American Tracy Caldwell Dyson are scheduled to lift-off aboard a Soyuz FG from Pad 1 at the Baikonour Cosmodrome on April 2 at 8:04:34 am Moscow time, or 12:04 am EDT (0404 GMT).

The space trio will take their Soyuz TMA 18 spacecraft into a lower orbit than that of the space station as it works to catch up with the complex in a quick manner.

The space taxi will arrive in a slow approach to station early Sunday morning and dock. A few hours later, the hatches between the two crafts will open and the Soyuz crew will become the final half of the Expedition 23 crew.

Docking should take place on April 4 at 1:26 am EDT, with the hatch opening ceremony to follow two hours later.

Soyuz commander Alexander Skvortsov spoke of his job duties during a recent news conference, "The tasks are maintaining the station, receiving and transferring the cargo that is delivered on cargo vehicles, and I think one of the most important tasks that our crew members will have is promoting scientific research in space, a human spaceflight program, because I believe that humanity as a whole should strive to achieve loftier goals and try to expand the horizons."

Friday morning's launch of a Soyuz will begin a bee hive of activity around the orbital complex during the month of April.

Days after the Soyuz docking on Sunday, the space shuttle Discovery is set to dock with the station three days later. And, in the final days of the month a Russian Progress cargo ship is scheduled to dock with a wealth of supplies and food for the crew of six.

"There’s going to be a number of vehicles visiting us from as large as the shuttle to as small as the Progress", veteran shuttle astronaut Caldwell-Dyson discussed recently. "We’ll see another crew come up, we’ll see a crew leave, we’ll see a crew come up during the time frame that I’ll be (on station)".

As the new crew members settle aboard the orbital outpost, there will be alot to take in as they settle into their new home in space.

"We will try to understand the activities on the station as soon as possible in order for us to help Oleg and Soichi and T.J. This will be our primary task," rookie space flyer Kornienko discussed days ago. "Of course, it’s impossible to tell how we will feel in our first days on the station. It’s individual to every every human being, but I don’t think we’ll have any problems and we will start working with the station crew from the start and start helping them and working together with them".

Skvortsov, who will become the commander the Expedition 24 crew in May, spoke on the resposibility of the title station commander, "This is a huge responsibility when you realize that you’ve become the commander of something that was built before you got on board and it is your responsibility and your duty to preserve it for next crews -- it’s a added responsibility. As a professional I believe, as a cosmonaut who trained for spaceflight for such a long time together with his crew members, I can say that we’re all ready for this flight, but you always feel this responsibility. You try to do the best you can, and make sure that your best is not something that is bad".

The crew will perform a few spacewalks and receive unmanned cargo ships from Russia, America and Japan, in addition to a few space shuttle visits during the spring - summer months on earth.

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