NASAnamed a three-astronaut team as the next crew of the International Space Station (ISS), a trio that will launch toward the orbital laboratory in stages later this year.
Veteran NASAshuttle astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will command the six-month Expedition14 mission, with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin serving as flight engineer.
A thirdExpedition 14 crewmember, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, is expected to join Lopez-Alegriaand Tyurin - who will ride a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS inSeptember - during the STS-116 shuttle flight currently scheduled for December2006.
The Expedition14 mission will mark the second three-person astronaut team to visit the ISSsince the 2003 Columbiaaccident forced a reduction increw size due to the lack of shuttle flights that followed.
After three yearsof two-person crews, the current Expedition13 crew is expected to return to the original three-astronaut plan with thearrival of European Space Agency astronaut ThomasReiter during NASA's planned STS-121shuttle flight slated to fly noearlier than July 1. Reiter will join the Expedition 14 crew until Williams arrives, NASA said.
Selected tojoin NASA's astronaut corps in 1992, Lopez-Alegria has served aboard three shuttleflights beginning with Columbia's STS-73 mission in 1995. During 2000's STS-92mission aboard Discovery and the STS-113flight aboard Endeavour in 2002, Lopez-Alegria aided in the construction ofthe ISS and staged five spacewalks during those two flights.
A captainin the U.S. Navy, Lopez-Alegria has logged more than 42 days in Earth orbit andabout 34 hours of spacewalking time. During Expedition 14, he will also serveas NASA's science officer throughout the mission.
LikeLopez-Alegria, Tyurin is no stranger to spaceflight.
A cosmonautsince 1993 with Russia's Federal Space Agency, Tyurin served as flight engineerduring the third ISS mission - Expedition3 - which launchedtoward the orbital platform in August 2001 during NASA's STS-105mission aboard Discovery. Tyurin spent 125 in orbit before returningwith NASA's STS-108shuttle crew aboard Endeavour in December 2001.
Unlike herExpedition 14 crewmates, Williams is making her first spaceflight.
A commanderin the U.S. Navy, where she's served as a naval aviator and flight instructor, Williamsjoined NASA's astronaut corps in 1998. She has served as a liaison in Moscow tosupport the Expedition 1 mission - the first long-duration ISS spaceflight -and supported station robotics work. Williams has logged over 2,770 flighthours in 30 different types of aircraft throughout her naval and astronautcareer.
TheExpedition 14 crew is expected to relieve the space station's current tenants -Expedition 13 commander Pavel Vinogradov, flight engineer Jeffrey Williams -who arrived at the orbital laboratory on April 1.
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