CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - A U.S. entrepreneur making history as the world'sfirst female space tourist said hello to astronauts aboard the International SpaceStation (ISS) early Tuesday while she and two professional spaceflyers continued their trek towards the orbitallaboratory.
"Helloeveryone, I look forward to seeing you on the station," said Anousheh Ansari, who isriding aboard a Russian-builtSoyuz TMA-9 spacecraft with the station's next crew.
"We lookforward to welcoming you all onboard," ISS Expedition13 flight engineer JeffreyWilliams replied.
The callcame during a rareconference call between three manned spacecraft circling the Earth. Inaddition to the Soyuz ferrying Ansari and two Expedition14 astronauts to the ISS, three astronauts currently live aboard the spacestation itself while six others are on their way back to Earth aboard NASA'sAtlantis shuttle.
"I know wehave a lot to learn from all of them, and we look forward to our time togetherespecially having Anousheh onboard," Expedition 14commander MichaelLopez-Alegria, who is riding aboard the Soyuzwith Ansari and flight engineer MikhailTyurin, told the Atlantis crew of Expedition 13."It's too bad the Atlantis crew won't get to meet her, but maybe some time inthe future."
Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin are relieving Williams and Expedition 13commander Pavel Vinogradov, who havelived aboard the ISS since their April arrival. The two Expedition 14astronauts will welcome current Expedition 13 flight engineer ThomasReiter, of the European Space Agency, into their ranks, though Williams,Vinogradov and Ansari are scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 28.
Ansari isthe fourth paying visitor to the ISS and will spend nine days in space on atrip brokered with Russia's Federal Space Agency by theVirginia-based firm Space Adventures. A long-time advocate of privatespaceflight, Ansari served as a backup for Japanesebusinessman Daisuke Enomoto, who was paying anestimated $20 million for a trek to the ISS before failinga final preflight medical check.
"I thinkit's great," said Atlantis astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, the only female member of the shuttle'sSTS-115 crew, of Ansari's spaceflight in aspace-to-ground television interview after the spacecraft conference call. "Idon't think there's anything, you know, about being a space tourist orastronaut. If the guys can do it, we can do it too."
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