Astronauts 'Home' Again on Space Station

Orbital Arrival: Fresh Astronaut Crew Docks at Space Station
The joint International Space Station crew waves to viewers on Earth after the Oct. 12, 2007 docking of the new Expedition 16 astronauts. They are: (top row, from left) Expedition 15 flight engineer Oleg Kotov, commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, flight engineer Clayton Anderson. Bottom row: (from left) Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Expedition 16 flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko and commander Peggy Whitson. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

For PeggyWhitson, the first female commander of the International Space Station, andYuri Malenchenko, her Expedition 16 crewmate, today's arrival at the orbitingoutpost was something of a homecoming.

Bothspace explorers had previously lived aboard the ISS during earlier flights:Whitson for 184 days, 22 hours and 15 minutes in 2002 and Malenchenko for just31 minutes longer a year later.

"Whenyou are so familiar with the layout of the station, you know what is kept whereand so it feels like you are at home when everything around you is sofamiliar," said flight engineer Malenchenko in a preflight interview with

The crew arrivedat the station at 10:50 a.m. EDT (1450 GMT) Friday. Whitson will officiallybecome the ISS commander -- the station's first female leader --after aceremony next Friday. They will spend the week learning about the station'ssystems from the outgoing Expedition 15 crewmembers.

To makethe ISS feel even more like home for the next six months they are on-board, theAmerican astronaut and Russian cosmonaut opted to bring items with them toadorn their living space. Unlike their prior stays though, their chosenpersonal decorations tend to be more virtual.

"Iam doing a lot more electronically this time. It's just easier, less of ahassle. I can print whatever I want when I get up there, and not have to worryabout hand-carrying so much. So that alone simplifies the personal items I wasplanning to take, in terms of like photos," explained Whitson. "Thatto me, is simpler."

Onetangible, if initially unplanned item among Whitson's personal items waspresented to her just a day before her and her crew's launch on Oct. 10. Inreverence to her role as the first woman to command the station, she was giftedwith a "kamcha", a Kazakhriding whip, as a means of keeping her male crewmembers in line.Acknowledging the presentation by a member of the Russian launch crew at theBaikonur Cosmodrome, Whitson said, "I hope there will be no need to usethis, but I'll take it on-board just in case."

Anothercommemorative item common among Whitson's crew is their mission emblem forExpedition 16. Whitson and Malenchenko wore the patch on their spacesuits toorbit, and Clay Anderson, who has been on the ISS since June, adopted it as hisown soon after their arrival, as the three donned caps bearing the artwork.

The insignia'sdesign represents the conjunction of two unique astronomical events: atransit of the ISS across the surface of a full moon and a nearly completeannular eclipse of the sun.

"Myhusband works [at] the Johnson Space Center and one of the guys in hislaboratory, Brian Crucian was interested in doing thelogo for me," shared Whitson. "He selected three or four differentthings and I told him I liked [it to be] simple and he came up with somedifferent ideas. He had sent me the picture of the annular eclipse of the Moonwith the station transit along it, so he had come up with the basic idea of thedesign, and then we expanded upon that. So he was the idea man behind it."

Malenchenkoalso had an emblem designed to represent their ride to orbit, Soyuz TMA-11,which he commanded and included Whitson and spaceflight participant SheikhMuszaphar Shukor, the first Malaysian "angkasawan"or astronaut. The patch, which is based on a photograph of a Soyuz approachingthe ISS captured by cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov, was designed by spacememorabilia dealer Alex Panchenko.

Shukor, atrained orthopedic surgeon who is flying as part of a commercial agreementbetween the Malaysian and Russian governments, chose to bring itemsrepresenting his nationality and culture for his nine-day stay on the ISS.

"Weare bringing some of our space food, Malaysian food actually, it's more for[our] cultural program," said Shukor to According to hismission blog, Shukor'scultural food selections include Biryani Chicken, Rendang Tok, SatayAyam, and Kuih Raya Bangkit.

He alsopacked a popular children's toy, a large spinning top called a "gasing," to show to Malaysian students during aplanned live downlink. "I am also hoping to wear a Batik shirt inspace," Shukor wrote on his website.

Shukor,together with Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineerOleg Kotov will return to Earth on Oct. 21. Anderson will remain on the stationuntil later this month when the space shuttle Discovery arrives with hisreplacement, Dan Tani, who will then join Whitson'screw.

Inaddition to the small items they brought with them to the ISS, Whitson andMalenchenko will also receive care packages on visiting shuttles and unmannedProgress resupply spacecraft.

"Ireceived a lot of neat things that people would send me on the Progressvehicles, you know, letters and cards," described Whitson of her last stayon the station, "and those are very special, even now to go back and lookand see what people wrote to me when I was on orbit."

Some ofthe contents of those former care packages are also still on-board.

"Thereis some music I brought up and some movies," Malenchenko said.

"There's movies up there, somewill have stayed but we try to change them out because we have limited spaceand so we just add new ones. So we get to pick a new set of movies that go upfor us to watch in our free time. And they've gotten a lot more capability nowto send up short TV shows or other things for us, which is great, so if youhave a favorite series of whatever, they can get that up to you," saidWhitson.

Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.