Three Expedition 36 Crew Members Arrive At Space Station
[WATCH VIDEO: Expedition 36 Crew Lift-off From Baikonur Cosmodrome]
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A Soyuz rocket carrying three members of Expedition 36 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:31 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 28 (2:31 a.m. May 29, Kazakh time). After a six-hour flight, the capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS).
The Soyuz carried NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, future Commander of Expedition 37. The late Tuesday docking (10:10 p.m. EDT) marks only the second time a crew has arrived aboard the orbiting lab less than a day after launch. The previous standard had seen dockings occur about two days after launch. The first expedited launch-to-docking mission occurred on March 28 when Expedition 35 crew members made the record flight.
A little more than two hours after the current docking procedure was completed, the hatches between Soyuz TMA-09M and the ISS opened (12:14 a.m. EDT May 29). The three space fliers were officially welcomed by the current ISS crew members, NASA´s Chris Cassidy and Russia´s Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov, Commander of Expedition 36.
With the newcomers aboard the space station, Expedition 36 will operate as a six-person crew until September when Cassidy, Misurkin and Vinogradov end Expedition 36 by undocking from the ISS aboard their Soyuz TMA-08M and return to Earth. Their departure will officially mark the beginning of Expedition 37 with Yurchikhin at the helm. Expedition 37 will then remain as a three-person crew until future Expedition 38 members arrive in late September. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano are scheduled to remain onboard the ISS until November.
With the station anew, the summer is expected to be a busy one for the crew members. During the next five-six months the crew of Expedition 36/37 is scheduled to conduct five spacewalks to prepare the ISS for the installation of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module in December. A November spacewalk will see the Olympic Torch carried out into space. Also, the crew will be on hand for the arrival of several cargo ships. In June, the ESA´s “Albert Einstein” ATV-4 will dock with the station; in July, Russia´s Progress Cargo ship will dock; in August, the crew will accept JAXA´s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4.
Since the ISS was first inhabited 12 years ago, more than 1,600 experiments have taken place aboard the station. Expedition 36 will add several more key investigations and experiments to that list during the next several months.
Some of the more significant experiments will be an examination of how to better maintain bone health in zero gravity. Research will continue into how plants grow, which could lead to more efficient crop production back on Earth as well as future crop production in space. The crew also plans to test a new portable gas monitor designed to help analyze the environment inside the ISS. The crew also plans to investigate how fire behaves in space, giving scientists a better understanding of fuel combustion and perhaps leading to cleaner, more efficient technologies for combustion engines.
Nyberg, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering, is on her second space mission. She last went into space in 2008 as an STS-124 crew member aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. Part of her mission then was to deliver and install the pressurized module portion of the Kibo laboratory and its robotic arm.
This is Yurchikhin´s fourth time in space. He first flew to the station in October 2002 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. He then returned to the station in 2007 as a member of Expedition 15 and then in 2010 as a member of Expedition 24/25. Yurchikhin has performed five spacewalks and has spent a combined total of more than a year in space.
This marks Parmitano´s first flight into space. As a member of the Italian Air Force, Parmitano was selected as an astronaut candidate by the ESA in 2008, becoming certified as an astronaut in 2011.
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION FACTS
The ISS was launched in 1998 and has been continuously manned for more than 12 years (4591 days). The station itself is 239 feet long, 356 feet wide, 66 feet high, and has a total mass of 990,000 pounds. The orbiting lab travels in orbit over Earth at about 17,239 miles per hour and makes one complete orbit of the planet about every 92 minutes. The lab has orbited the earth more than 82,960 times since it was placed into orbit more than 5304 days ago.
Image Below: Expedition 36/37 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA, left, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency give a multiple thumbs-up signal after the crew’s press conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Kazakhstan on May 27, 2013. The crew launched to the International Space Station early Wednesday morning, May 29. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will remain aboard the station until mid-November. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls