March 20, 2010

Soyuz Crew Readies For Next ISS Mission

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov displayed a small toy duck on Friday as he and his crewmates prepared for a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in April.

Skvortsov said his daughter picked out the toy as an impromptu "weightlessness sensor."

The crew, consisting of Skvortsov, fellow Russian Mikhail Korniyenko and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, will take off from Baikonur on April 2

"We thought it was light and pretty enough. I think it should bring us luck," said Skvortsov, a uniformed air force colonel, speaking at the Star City training facility outside Moscow.

The crew will spend two days in a Soyuz capsule before arriving at the ISS, where they plan to join NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer, Soichi Noguchi of Japan and Oleg Kotov of Russia.

Officials said that one of the three Russians will sleep on the U.S. side of the space station because the Russian side only has two beds.

This will be the first flight that the two Russian cosmonauts will have had together.

"The hardest thing in our profession is the waiting. Sasha (Alexander) and I have been waiting 12 years for this flight," said Korniyenko, a former Moscow policeman, who is set to turn 50 in space.

"The most important thing is not to break down, to keep yourself going, to keep training despite all the difficulties. Then you will achieve success," Korniyenko said.

Caldwell-Dyson made her first space flight in 2007.  She said that she had "very little time" to train with her Russian colleagues, but described it as "rewarding."

"I think the most challenging part we'll face in orbit will be maintaining our team work during the very busy timeline we have," she said.

The head of Russia's space agency Roskosmos Anatoly Perminov said on Friday that a moratorium on space tourism to the ISS would continue "for two or three years," as NASA will remain reliant on the three-seater Soyuz launch for missions.

"There are many people interested. Very many countries have made requests, but now it is physically impossible for us," Perminov said, the Interfax news agency reported.


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