Nine Astronauts Now Aboard Space Station After New Trio Arrive
[ Watch the video: New Crew Arrives At Space Station ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
After a late night launch on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Russia, the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule, carrying three astronauts, docked with the International Space Station (ISS) just over six hours later, at 5:27 am EST on Thursday, November 7.
Bringing the Olympic torch along for the ride, Expedition 38 crew members Mikhail Tyurin, Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio joined up with Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano, Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy when the hatch was opened at 7:44 am EST Thursday.
NASA said this is the first time since October 2009 that nine people have resided on the station without the presence of a space shuttle. However, the crowded station will not stay this occupied for long as Expedition 37 crew members will be returning home this weekend after completing a 5-1/2 month-long stay in space.
Tyurin, Wakata and Mastracchio will be living and working aboard the space station through the upcoming holidays, all the way until May 2014. Kotov, on Sunday, will officially become the station commander for the second time; his last run as commander was for Expedition 23 in 2010.
The newest members brought along the famous Olympic torch, giving the traditional around-the-world torch relay quite a detour. The Olympic torch is making its way from Greece to Sochi, Russia in preparation for the 2014 winter games.
The arriving crew will be passing the torch to cosmonauts Kotov and Ryazansky, who are already on the orbiting station. The two cosmonauts will be bringing the torch outside the orbiting laboratory for a morning spacewalk, during which they will just be snapping a few pictures and bringing it back inside.
“Our goal here is to make it look spectacular,” Kotov said before his own mission began earlier this year. “We’d like to showcase our Olympic torch in space. We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV and they will see the station and see how we work.”
On Friday, all nine crew members will be involved in a joint news conference, during which they will be discussing the upcoming 15th anniversary of the space station’s construction. The space station has been continuously occupied for 13 years now, and its funding will take it all the way into 2020 and potentially even up until 2028.