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: © 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.

Image 1 of 1

"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.

Orbitalreplacements

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?"

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.