New Crew Settles in Aboard Space Station
Two veteran astronauts and Malaysia's first spaceflyer are settling into orbital life as they near the midpoint of a crew swap aboard the International Space Station (ISS). ?
ISS Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko are taking charge of the station from its previous crew while visiting Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor performs science experiments for his government's space agency. The three spaceflyers arrived at the ISS on Friday and are in the midst of a nine-day exchange with the station's current Expedition 15 crew.
"It felt very much like coming home again," Whitson, the space station's first female commander and a veteran ISS astronaut, told reporters Monday of arriving at the ISS.
Whitson and Malenchenko have both served on past long-duration ISS crews and launched toward the space station with Shukor on Oct. 10. They are replacing Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov, who are wrapping up their own six-month mission and are set to land with Shukor on Oct. 21 while their third crewmate -- NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson -- stays on as part of the station's new crew.
"I'm a little concerned about this whip thing that Peggy got in Russia," Anderson jokingly told the Associated Press today in an interview on NASA TV. "I'm kind of waiting for her to kind of take it out here and kind of put me in line."
Well-wishers presented Whitson with a traditional Kazakh whip in good humor to keep her male crewmates in check before she launched spaceward from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome spaceport in Central Asia.
While the joint crews of Expedition 15 and Expedition 16 work on their handover, Shukor tackled his science experiments and took some time to peer at his home planet from space.
"The first time I looked out the window and I saw the view of Earth it was such an amazing feeling," he told reporters. "It was so spectacular that heart stopped beating and my eyes stopped blinking."
Shukor is flying to the ISS as part of a commercial deal between Russian and his Malaysian government for Russian-built military aircraft. He said that while he has taken some lessons from the NASA and Russian astronauts on how best to move in the weightlessness of space, but the overall transition to life without gravity has gone well.
"I'm actually quite surprised how I responded to space," Shukor said, crediting his Russian instructors and a spinning chair training device for preparing him for spaceflight. "I was expecting much worse."
Meanwhile, the Expedition 16 crew is looking ahead to what promises to be a busy first half of their orbital mission.
Less than one week after Shukor and the Expedition 15 crew depart the ISS, NASA's space shuttle Discovery is due to launch its STS-120 mission to deliver a vital connecting node to the orbital laboratory. The Expedition 16 crew also plans to stage two spacewalks and host a planned December shuttle flight bearing a European-built laboratory, a well as a Russian cargo ship, before the year is out.
"It's going to be very exciting, very challenging," Whitson said. "And we're really excited about getting started."
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