Next ISS Crew, Space Tourist Prepare for Orbital Flight

Next ISS Crew, Space Tourist Prepare for Orbital Flight
Expedition 15 crewmembers, expected to spend some part of next year on the International Space Station, meet the press at the Johnson Space Center. From the left are astronaut Daniel Tani, Expedition 15/16 flight engineer; astronaut Clayton Anderson, Expedition 15 flight engineer; Charles Simonyi, space flight participant; cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, Expedition 15 flight engineer and Soyuz commander; and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, Expedition 15 commander. Yurchikhin and Kotov represent Russia's Federal Space Agency.
(Image: © NASA/JSC.)

Two NASAastronauts and the next space tourist are bound for Russia to prepare for 15thexpedition to the InternationalSpace Station (ISS).

NASAastronauts Daniel Tani and Clayton Anderson will head to Russia's Star City cosmonaut training center this weekend to join their ISSExpedition 15 commander FyodorYurchikin and fellow flight engineer Oleg Kotov, NASA officials said Friday.

"Our goalis to assemble the ISS and outfit it with all the elements we have planed,"Yurchikin, commander of the Expedition 15 mission, said in a recent missionpress briefing. "We hope to do a good job."

U.S.entrepreneur Charles Simonyi, who is poised to become the fifth tourist tovisit the ISS, will also make his way to Star City for final training next week,Erin Lundberg, a spokesperson for the Virginia-based firm Space Adventuresthat arranged Simonyi's flight, told SPACE.com Friday.

Initiallyslated for a March9 space shot, Simonyi and the Expedition 15 crew are now set to lift off onApril 9, NASA spokesperson Lynette Madison, of the agency's Johnson Space Center, told SPACE.com. The mission will wait until after the plannedMarch 16 liftoff of NASA's STS-117 mission to deliver new solar arrays to theISS.

"I view thespaceflight as kind of the exclamation point at the end of a very longsentence," Simonyi said last month. "I'd like to advance civilian spaceflightand I'd like to assist space station research to the extent that I can."

Simonyi ispaying between $20-25 million for his ISS spaceflight. He plans to serve as atest subject for biomedical experiments while in orbit, and is chronicling theflight on his website: www.charlesinspace.com.Simonyi's flight and four others - most recently that of U.S.businesswoman Anousheh Ansari - were each brokered by Space Adventures withRussia's Federal Space Agency.

Simonyiwill launch beside veteran cosmonaut Yurchikin and Kotov, who is making hisfirst spaceflight, aboard their Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft from BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He will spend just over a week aboard the ISS beforereturning to Earth with Expedition14 commander MichaelLopez-Alegria and veteran cosmonaut MikhailTyurin.

Yurchikinand Kotov expect to spend six months in orbit and will join NASA astronaut SunitaWilliams - currently aboard the ISS as an Expedition 14 flight engineer -who herself will be relieved by Anderson during NASA's planned STS-118 shuttleflight in June.

Tani willsubsequently relieve Anderson during the STS-120shuttle mission to install a new connecting element - knownas Node 2 - to the ISS in September. Node 2 is vital for the spacestation's expansion since it will serve as a hub, connecting European and Japanesemodules to the rest of the orbital laboratory.

"It's kindof complex and it's kind of confusing," Tani said last month of the astronautshuffle, adding that it could mean he won't be able to join the Expedition15 crew if his shuttle flight is delayed, but at least he will be trained to handlethe Node 2 construction. "So it's a very exciting time for the station and I'mthrilled to be a part of that."

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