New Crew, Space Tourist Settle into ISS

New Crew, Space Tourist Settle into ISS
American businessman Gregory Olsen, center, gives a thumbs up sign and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev, foreground, smiles after entering the Pirs docking station of International Space Station Expedition in this view from television Monday, Oct. 3, 2005. Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev, right, and Expedition 12 Commander William McArthur are in view of the camera also. (Image credit: AP Photo/NASA TV.)

Twoastronauts and U.S. space tourist Gregory Olsen are settling into life aboardthe International Space Station (ISS) one day after arriving at the orbital laboratory.

"This is adream come true," Olsen told reporters Tuesday via video link during a pressbriefing. "I'm having a great time."

Olsenarrived at the ISS early Monday with the Expedition12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev when their SoyuzTMA-7 spacecraft dockedat Russian-built Pirs docking compartment attached to the Zvezda servicemodule.

So far, thebest part of the flight has been the absence of gravity, Olsen said, addingthat he has experienced no ill effects from weightlessness.

"Just tofloat down the station is a wonderful experience," he added. "To me, yeah, it'sworth the money."

While the flightis Olsen's first spaceflight - he is paying $20 million for his orbital trek -it marks the second ISS-bound trip for McArthur and Tokarev.

"Thestation is much bigger than when I was here last," said McArthur, who lastboarded the ISS during STS-92in October 2000. "At that time, there was no [Destiny] lab and we weren'tallowed to go into the service module."

McArthursaid that despite the newness of the ISS, he and Tokarev did not feel likespace station strangers.

"It'sreally interesting how much at home Valery and I feel because the simulators at[Johnson Space Center] Star City prepared us well for being here," he added.


McArthurand Tokarev are relieving the space station's current caretakers, Expedition11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips, who havespent almost six months living and working aboard the ISS. The Expedition 11crew and Olsen are scheduled to ride their Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft back to Earthon Oct. 10.

BothExpedition 11 astronauts are looking forward to seeing their families, as wellsome good eating, when they return from space.

After sixmonths, a hot steaming pizza and a good, cold mug of beer are looking prettygood, Phillips said.

Krikalevadded that he looked forward to once again savoring his coffee's aroma in a mug,rather than merely drinking it out of a plastic bag as he does aboard the spacestation.

"So nothingfancy, maybe simple stuff..we're missing regular, normal Earth food," Krikalevadded.

The Expedition11 and Expedition 12 station crews will spend most of this week's jointoperations conducting handover activities, though Tokarev and Phillips areperforming some experiments that are only scheduled during such crew overlaps,NASA officials said.

Afearless launch

Olsen, ascientist and entrepreneur, said he experienced no fear as he launchedinto space with the Expedition 12 crew late Friday atop a Russian-built Soyuzrocket.

"As soon asthat rocket launched, I was more relaxed than I've been in two years," Olsensaid, adding that he felt both relief and joy at liftoff. "The only think I wasnervous about was, maybe I wasn't going to go."

He willspend a total of 10 days in space, which includes a week aboard the ISS, andperform three science experiments for the European Space Agency beforereturning to Earth. He is the third fare-paying visitor to the space stationafter South African MarkShuttleworth in 2002 and U.S. space tourist Dennis Tito in 2001.

"I feelwelcome," Olsen said, adding that the Expedition 11 and Expedition 12astronauts are good company. "With a crew like this, how could you go wrong?"

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.