The two men carrying out the tenthexpedition to the International Space Station (ISS) have officially taken control of theorbiting facility.
ISS Expedition 10 commander LeroyChiao and flight engineer Salizhan Sharipov are settling in to whatwill be the first long spaceflight for both the veteran space flyers careers, sixmonths. The pair took control of the station from its previous crew, Expedition9's Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke, who departedon Oct. 23.
"We'll doour best to leave [the ISS] in better condition than you've given it to us," Chiaotold the Expedition 9 crew and visiting Russian Space Forces cosmonaut YuriShargin during a change of command ceremony.
Both Chiaoand Sharipov have looked forward to their spaceflight and the uniqueexperiences the mission offers.
A few firsts
Whileneither of the Expedition 10 crewmembers are space rookies -- both have flownaboard NASA space shuttles, three times for Chiao -- the mission marks the firsttime either spacefarer has spent an extended stretch in Earth orbit or flown inRussia'sSoyuz spacecraft.
"Along-duration spaceflight is more like a marathon," Chiao said before launchingup toward the ISS on Oct. 13. "Rather than the sprint of two weeks during ashuttle flight, trying to get everything done."
Duringtheir stay aboard the ISS, Chiao and Sharipov will conduct two spacewalks inRussian-built Orlan spacewalks, reposition their Soyuz TMA-5 spacecraft to thestation's Zarya control module and perform ISS maintenance and scienceresearch. They are expected to be thelast two-person crew to the station since NASA's space shuttle fleet is anticipatedto return to flight during Expedition 11, which would allow the ISS to returnto its typical three-person crews.
"I want towork very hard in this mission," Sharipov told SPACE.com before launch, adding that he has served as a back-upcrewmember five times, three times for Mir mission and twice for the ISS.
Sharipovbegan his work even before reaching the ISS, manually dockingthe Soyuz spacecraft carrying Expedition 10 to the station when the capsule'sautomated system malfunctioned.
The moon and space cooking
Chiao saidspaceflight has been in his heart since his childhood, when at age 8 he watchedApollo astronauts reach the moon.
"I loveflying, even when we go on vacation," said Chiao, who owns his own airplane.Married over a year to his wife Karen, Chiao said his wedding ring is among thetreasured items he took with him to the ISS.
Sharipov,meanwhile, takes comfort in the photographs of friends and family he packedinto the 3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) of personal cargo allowed with him intospace. His chief concern, he said, is the preservation of his culinary skills.
"Hopefully,I won't forget how to cook in the six months I'll be onboard the spacestation," Sharipov said. "I like to eat and cook and share my passions with myfriends."
The Expedition10 crew did not arrive at the space station unaccompanied. Visiting ISScosmonaut Shargin also made the two-day spaceflight, spending eight days aboardthe station performing science experiments.
Qualifyingas a test cosmonaut in 1998, Shargin hails from Englestown, Saratovin Russiaand serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Russian Air Force. He made his firstflight into space with the Expedition 10 crew.
During hisbrief week aboard the ISS, Shargin told reporters his schedule was so filledwith scientific research that he would most likely really look back at hisexperience after landing.
"I thinkthis will be very beneficial for our scientific understanding and for humanityoverall," Shargin said of his mission.