Expedition 10 Crew Receives Warm Welcome Aboard ISS
The ISS Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft (left) carrying the Expedition 10 arrives at the International Space Station just moments before docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment.
CREDIT: NASA TV.
After two days of spaceflight and a somewhat tricky docking, a new crew is aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
ISS Expedition 10 crewmembers Leroy Chiao and Salizhan Sharipov, along with visiting cosmonaut Yuri Shargin, were greeted warmly by the space station's current tenants, who have not entertained other humans for nearly six months.
Expedition 10's arrival marked the end of the first Soyuz flight for Chiao, Sharipov and Shargin. They docked successfully at 12:16 a.m. EDT (0416 GMT) on Oct. 16.
Chiao and Sharipov are relieving the current ISS crew, Expedition 9 commander Gennady Padalka and NASA science officer Michael Fincke, who have lived aboard the station since April 21. Chiao, a veteran NASA astronaut, will serve as Expedition 10 commander while Sharipov, a cosmonaut with Russia's Federal Space Agency, will serve as flight engineer.
"The station is looking gorgeous right now," Sharipov told Expedition 9's Padalka during the docking.
"We try to do our best," Padalka replied.
With their Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft docked at the Russian-built Pirs docking compartment, there are currently three Russian spaceships attached to the space station. A Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft - Shargin's ride home with the crew of Expedition 9 - is currently docked with the station's Zarya module, while a Progress supply ship is attached to the aft of end of the Zvezda service module.
With NASA's space shuttle fleet grounded until at least May 2005, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft are currently the only transport capable of delivering new crews to the ISS.
A piloted approach
Expedition 10's docking was not without incident.
Six minutes before docking, with the Soyuz within 656 feet (200 meters) of the ISS and under autonomous control, the spacecraft's speed shot up considerably, exceeding the normal flight velocities for docking maneuvers and setting off alarms, Russian flight controllers said during a post-docking news conference. An apparent malfunction of the Soyuz's automated docking system seemed to be at fault, they added.
But Sharipov, who commanded the two-day Soyuz trip to the ISS, calmly took manual control of the spacecraft, backed it away from the station, then brought in for a smooth docking.
"I observed the transition from autonomous to manual docking and it appeared seamless," said Fred Gregory, NASA's deputy administrator, during a post-docking news conference in Moscow. "The crew was calm."
Before launching into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Oct. 13, Sharipov expressed confidence in his flight crew's ability to dock the Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft manually if it were required.
"All crews are trained for this scenario for the Soyuz," he told a group of reporters in a preflight news conference. "We are prepared."
It took about three hours to conduct leak checks between the Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS, after which Expedition 10 entered the station at 3:25 a.m. EDT (0725 GMT).
Much work ahead
While Chiao and Sharipov have a full six months of spaceflight ahead of them - including two spacewalks and a series of maintenance and science experiments - the next eight days will be dense with activity.
As the new keepers of the ISS, Chiao and Sharipov will receive updates from Expedition 9 regarding emergency procedures, equipment location, as well as ongoing experiments and station issues. Sharipov and Padalka hope to repair a finicky Russian-built Elektron oxygen-generating device using spare parts brought up by Chiao and Sharipov. Chiao also plans to work with Fincke to repair one of three U.S. space suits aboard the ISS, also using parts brought up by the new crew.
Meanwhile, Shargin has eight packed days of science experiments planned, and will most likely not have any free time during his stay aboard the ISS, Russian flight controllers said.
More immediately, all five men are due start deactivating and unpacking the Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft, then enter an extended, 10-hour sleep period today beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT). Expedition 9 and Shargin are currently scheduled to undock from the ISS in their Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft and land on the steppes of Kazakhstan on Oct. 23.
"We'll take good care of this new crew and show them the ropes and show them the ship," Fincke told ground controllers Friday. "We're looking forward to having a smooth handover."
Fincke told NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox that while it will be sad leaving, he and Padalka look forward to seeing their families again. Fincke especially looks forward to meeting his new daughter Tarali Paulina, who was born on June 18 while he orbited Earth.
"It still feels like someone's kicking you out of your apartment, doesn't it?" asked Bowersox, who flew aboard the ISS Expedition 6 from November 2002 to May 2003.
"You're absolutely right," Fincke said.
- ISS Expedition 10: Complete Mission Coverage
- ISS Expedition 9: Complete Mission Coverage
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