A fresh space station crew and one visiting cosmonaut are ontheir way to the International Space Station (ISS) after their Soyuz rocketpierced the skies above Kazakhstan during a flawless launch today.
Tucked inside their Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft, ISS Expedition10 commander Leroy Chiao and flight engineer Salizhan Sharipov enjoyed clearskies as they left the bonds of Earth and began a two-day trip toward the spacestation.
Russian Space Forces cosmonaut Yuri Shargin, a space stationvisitor, also rode into space with the Expedition 10 crew and has a packed scheduleof science experiments for the eight days he will spend aboard the ISS. Chiaoand Sharipov will spend the next six months living aboard the space stationduring their mission.
"Everything is going fine onboard," Sharipov told Russianflight controllers as Expedition 10's rocket shot into space. "The crew isdoing fine."
Expedition 10's on-time space shot took place at 11:06:26p.m. EDT on Oct. 13 (0306:26 Oct. 14 GMT), though it was 9:09:26 in the morningat the launch's Site 254 staging ground at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.The launch pad was also the starting point for the world's first humanspaceflight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961.
"It was beautiful weather for the launch and all systemsseems to be working," said Fred Gregory, NASA's deputy administrator, fromBaikonur Cosmodrome. "The maintenance of the space station is essential and mandatoryfor our next steps of space exploration."
About nine minutes after liftoff, Expedition 10 enteredspace and Sharipov let a figurine of Felix the Cat- one of his daughter's favoritecharacters - float free in the weightless environment.
While both Chiao and Sharipov are veteran astronauts,Expedition 10's launch marked the first time any of the three Soyuz TMA-5crewmembers flew aboard the Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft. Both men have flownaboard NASA space shuttles.
"I'm looking forward to flying on the Soyuz," Chiao said toreporters of the Soyuz flight during an Oct. 13 preflight news conference. "Itwill be an unparalleled adventure for me."
Sharipov is commanding the two-day Soyuz flight to the ISS,which includes three engine burns to boost the spacecraft into docking positionfor the space station. Chiao and Shargin are serving as flight engineers duringthe brief trip.
"We've trained intensively for this trip," said Shargin, whois making his first foray into space with this flight, during the preflightconference. "I am confident we will accomplish everything."
Trained as spacewalk specialist, Chiao is a veteran of threeNASA shuttle flights, including a station construction mission in 2000 where hehelped add the Z1 truss to the space station. Sharipov served as a missionspecialist aboard Endeavor during a 1998 flight to the then-operational Mirspace station. Expedition 10 will be the first long-duration flight for theseasoned crewmembers.
In addition to their science and station-keeping duties,Chiao and Sharipov will conduct two spacewalks during their ISS mission.
The Expedition 10 crew is inheriting some ongoing issuesthat space station tenants, Expedition 9's Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke,have worked with over the last few months.
Among them, Chiao will continue Fincke's troubleshootingwork on U.S. spacesuits aboard the ISS in an effort to restore them to workingorder. Expedition 10 will also continue repair work to the space station'sElektron oxygen generating device, which has been working intermittently overthe last few weeks.
"Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke have already finishedmuch of the repair work," Sharipov said before launch. "We hope to finish thatwork during the crew transfer."
Shargin and the Expedition 10 crew are set to dock with the ISSon Oct. 16 at 12:25 a.m. EDT (0425 GMT). After about eight days of crewchangeover activities, Shargin and the Expedition 9 crew will return to Earthon Oct. 23.