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ISS Crew Adjusting To New Growth

June 2, 2009

Since the arrival of three new astronauts to the International Space Station on May 29, the orbiting outpost has become home to six crewmembers for the first time in its history.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying Russian astronaut Roman Romanenko, Frank De Winne, of Belgium, and Canadian Robert Thirsk on Friday docked with the ISS where they were met by the current ISS crew of Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

The current mission marks the first time astronauts from all five of the partners in the ISS — Canada, the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan, Russia and the United States — are in orbit together.

“I come from a large family and I’m used to a lot of activity and busyness and a lot of laughter, and we certainly have that now with these guys coming,” U.S. astronaut, and father of five children, Michael Barratt said Monday.

“Up here, the station is very large and six people still don’t quite fill it,” added Barratt. “It’s a very comfortable venue for six people to work.”

“I don’t think the routine has changed that much,” he said. “There’s a lot more of us, and we still tend to congregate in the Russian service module for breakfast. There’s just a lot more people to share some stories.”

The crew will be forced to stretch out even more in a few weeks when space shuttle Endeavour arrives at the orbiting outpost, making the number of crewmembers jump from six to thirteen.

Barratt said housing 13 crewmembers “will be a challenge.”

“It’ll be busy, there will be a lot of coordination,” he added.

Space station commander Padalka, said “it’s a little bit like herding cats” in space with the new adjustments.

“Believe me, this is a surreal world here,” he said in a press conference from space. “I sometimes feel like I’m in the middle of a Salvador Dali painting here.”

“My greatest fear? Astronauts always have a fear of injury or death, but our greatest fear is of making a mistake. So I just hope I can get through these six months without making any serious mistakes.”

De Winne will replace Padalka as commander of the ISS in a few months, marking the first time a European has taken control of the outpost.

Image Caption: The six members of the Expedition 20 crew answer media questions during a crew news conference Monday. Pictured in the front (from left) are Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata, Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barratt. In the back (from left) are Flight Engineers Frank De Winne, Roman Romanenko and Robert Thirsk. Credit: NASA TV

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