Weather Delays Space Station Crew's Landing

Weather Delays Space Station Crew's Landing
The Expedition 14 and Expedtioon 15 crews aboard the International Space Station share warm embraces during a traditional change of command ceremony aboard the outpost on April 17, 2007. From left to right: Expedition 14 flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, Expedition 15 flight engineers Sunita Williams and Oleg Kotov (partially obscured). (Image credit: NASA TV.)

Twoastronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) turned control of theorbital laboratory over to their replacements Tuesday. But the spaceflyers willspend one extra day in orbit after heavy rains flooded their landing site,according to Russian news reports.

ISSExpedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, flight engineer Mikhail Tyurinand U.S.space tourist Charles Simonyi are now slated to land Saturday -- one daylater than planned -- Russia's Interfax News Agency reported Tuesday.

"The areaof Arkalyk is flooded due to heavy rainfall," Igor Panarin, a spokesperson for Russia's Federal Space Agency, was quoted by Interfax as saying. "This couldcomplicate the arrival of search vehicles in the landing zone. Therefore it wasdecided to land the spacecraft further to the south in the area of Jezkazgan."

NASAofficials said that the Expedition 14 crew's alternate landing area isnortheast of Arkalyk, but southeast of the typical touchdown point for Soyuzspacecraft.

Lopez-Alegriaand Tyurin are concluding a seven-month mission to the ISS that began withthe September 2006 launch of their Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft. They are due to landwith Simonyi -- the fifth space tourist to visit the space station -- on April21 at about 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT).

Simonyi,58, is paying between $20 million and $25 million for a 13-day spaceflightunder an agreement between the Federal Space Agency and the Virginia-based firmSpace Adventures. A former Microsoft software developer with a lifelonginterest in human spaceflight, Simonyi is documenting his spaceflight via his Website: www.charlesinspace.com.

On Tuesday,the Expedition 14 crew turned over control of the ISS to Expedition 15commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and SunitaWilliams during a traditional ceremony that included ringing the ship'sbell inside the station's U.S. Destiny laboratory.

"Fyodor, it'swith a lot of envy and a lot of congratulations that I relinquish the good shipAlpha," said Lopez-Alegria, who, like Williams, is a U.S. Navy officer, usingthe station's official call sign.

Williams,who served as a member of the Expedition 14 crew, is staying on for part of theExpedition 15 mission and is due to return to Earth aboard a NASA space shuttlelater this summer.

"We loveour station, and we think the Expedition 15 crew will feel the same at the veryend of their mission," Tyurin said during the change of command ceremony.

While Lopez-Alegriaand Tyurin will have to wait one more day for their return to Earth, thelanding delay does give Simonyi yet another extra day in space. Simonyi wasinitially prepared for an 11-day trek to the ISS -- the typical duration of astation crew swap -- though Russianmission managers extended the flight two extra days to ensure the SoyuzTMA-9 lands during daylight.

Simonyisaid he had already heard that he was getting one more extra day in space.

"That'sgreat news," he said in an audio message posted to his Web site Tuesday.

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com 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 Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, 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 (opens in new tab) 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 Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).