Next ISS Crew, Space Tourist Prepare for Orbital Flight
Two NASA astronauts and the next space tourist are bound for Russia to prepare for 15th expedition to the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA astronauts Daniel Tani and Clayton Anderson will head to Russia's Star City cosmonaut training center this weekend to join their ISS Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikin and fellow flight engineer Oleg Kotov, NASA officials said Friday.
"Our goal is to assemble the ISS and outfit it with all the elements we have planed," Yurchikin, commander of the Expedition 15 mission, said in a recent mission press briefing. "We hope to do a good job."
U.S. entrepreneur Charles Simonyi, who is poised to become the fifth tourist to visit the ISS, will also make his way to Star City for final training next week, Erin Lundberg, a spokesperson for the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures that arranged Simonyi's flight, told SPACE.com Friday.
Initially slated for a March 9 space shot, Simonyi and the Expedition 15 crew are now set to lift off on April 9, NASA spokesperson Lynette Madison, of the agency's Johnson Space Center, told SPACE.com. The mission will wait until after the planned March 16 liftoff of NASA's STS-117 mission to deliver new solar arrays to the ISS.
"I view the spaceflight as kind of the exclamation point at the end of a very long sentence," Simonyi said last month. "I'd like to advance civilian spaceflight and I'd like to assist space station research to the extent that I can."
Simonyi is paying between $20-25 million for his ISS spaceflight. He plans to serve as a test subject for biomedical experiments while in orbit, and is chronicling the flight on his website: www.charlesinspace.com. Simonyi's flight and four others - most recently that of U.S. businesswoman Anousheh Ansari - were each brokered by Space Adventures with Russia's Federal Space Agency.
Simonyi will launch beside veteran cosmonaut Yurchikin and Kotov, who is making his first spaceflight, aboard their Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He will spend just over a week aboard the ISS before returning to Earth with Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.
Yurchikin and Kotov expect to spend six months in orbit and will join NASA astronaut Sunita Williams - currently aboard the ISS as an Expedition 14 flight engineer - who herself will be relieved by Anderson during NASA's planned STS-118 shuttle flight in June.
Tani will subsequently relieve Anderson during the STS-120 shuttle mission to install a new connecting element - known as Node 2 - to the ISS in September. Node 2 is vital for the space station's expansion since it will serve as a hub, connecting European and Japanese modules to the rest of the orbital laboratory.
"It's kind of complex and it's kind of confusing," Tani said last month of the astronaut shuffle, adding that it could mean he won't be able to join the Expedition 15 crew if his shuttle flight is delayed, but at least he will be trained to handle the Node 2 construction. "So it's a very exciting time for the station and I'm thrilled to be a part of that."
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