October 12, 2008

Soyuz Tma-13 Put into Orbit, Starts Two-Day Journey to Iss

BAIKONUR. Oct 12 (Interfax-AVN) - The Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-13, carrying the crew of the 18th main expedition and the sixth space tourist to the International Space Station, has been put into earth orbit.

"The spacecraft has started its two-day journey to the ISS," a spokesman for the Energia corporation told Interfax-AVN at Baikonur on Sunday.

The crew comprises Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, NASA astronaut Michael Fincke and the sixth space tourist Richard Garriott.

The Soyuz is to dock with the ISS at 12:33 p.m., Moscow time, on October 14. At 13:55 p.m. on the same day the crew will move into the ISS.

The U.S. space tourist is to spend about ten days on the ISS and he will return to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-12 with Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Konenenko. The landing is scheduled for 7:36 a.m., October 24.

The Soyuz TMA-13 has been put into orbit by a Russian launch vehicle, Soyuz FG, designed and produced by the CSKB-Progress rocket and space center in Samara.

Lonchakov and Fincke will replace Volkov and Kononenko, who have been on the station for six months.

Representatives of two space dynasties - Richard Garriott, U.S. astronaut Owen Garriott's son, and Sergei Volkov, the son of Russian cosmonaut Alexander Volkov, will meet in space.

Gregory Shamitoff, after the change of shifts, will join the 18th expedition and he will stay on the ISS until November, when he is replaced by U.S. astronaut Sandra Magnus.

The 18th expedition will be the last three-member crew. The crews will be extended to six members from spring 2009.

In the coming six months the crew will perform one spacewalk to fulfill a Russian program, and receive two U.S. shuttles and two Progress supply ships. The crew will also conduct over 50 experiments under a Russian research program, not counting European and American programs.

Garriott will also run a research program of his own, using his own methods and those devised by foreign space agencies.

The space tourist will grow proteins, which is expected to ease the creation of new medicines, and take pictures of regions on Earth to compare them with the images brought back by his father 35 years ago.

Garriott said before the launch that it would hopefully be easy to find the regions where climate change has occurred over these years.

He is also carrying his own invention, an immortality drive - a database with the deciphered DNA codes of great contemporary scientists and artists, as well as a database on humanity's crucial scientific achievements.

The three-stage medium-class Soyuz launch vehicle is based on the R-7 launch vehicle in service since 1963. The 1963 modification was called Voskhod. The name was changed to Soyuz in 1966. The rocket was deeply upgraded in 1973, receiving the name Soyuz-U. It was renamed Soyuz-U2 in 1982. The Soyuz-FG is the 2001 upgrade of the Soyuz-U rocket.

Soyuz launch vehicles are intended to put into orbit spacecraft flying socio-economic, research and special missions, as well as manned and cargo spacecraft of the Soyuz and Progress series.

Soyuz launch vehicles are manufactured by the CSKB-Progress rocket and space center in Samara.

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