The Expedition 14 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) marks the first time in the outpost's nearly six years of manned operations that crewmembers will arrive on a staggered schedule, NASA officials have said.
Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin joined flight engineer Thomas Reiter aboard the station this month for a planned six-month mission. But Reiter arrived at the ISS in July with a visiting shuttle crew and is expected return to Earth in December, when astronaut Sunita Williams arrives during NASA's planned STS-116 mission.
Expedition 14 Crew Stats
|Find out more about the ISS Expedition 14 Crew:
Flight Engineer: Mikhail Tyurin
Flight Engineer: Thomas Reiter
Flight Engineer: Sunita Williams
Williams, too, will stay on to join the Expedition 15 mission after Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin return to Earth in March 2007.
"I think I'm going to be very lucky to be up there with Expedition 14 first and then with Expedition 15 later on," Williams told reporters in a preflight interview, adding that the next ISS crew will include two Russian cosmonauts and she is not completely fluent in the Russian language. "I feel a little bit intimidated by the language, so it will be nice to have that initial time onboard."
Reiter, who made the shift between Expedition 13 and Expedition 14 crews recently, said there is an advantage in swapping out astronauts in stages.
"In previous years this handover period was always a kind of critical time because there is a lot to do in these few days when both crews are still on station," Reiter said in a NASA interview. "The crew that has been on station needs to explain to the newcomers how all the on board systems are configured, where things are stowed and so forth. Once they are gone the only, only place they can ask is the control center."
But when at least one ISS astronaut remains behind during a crew swap, the new station residents have nearby source of information to tap as questions arise, Reiter said.
"I'm totally ecstatic because of the reality that this is getting a little bit closer," Williams said of her spaceflight.
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