June 15, 2010

New Crew Headed For Space Station

The Russian Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft lifted off without incident at 5:35 pm EDT Tuesday, carrying three new Expedition 24 flight engineers bound for the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin were aboard the spacecraft for the pre-dawn launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will now begin their two-day journey to catch up with the ISS that is currently orbiting 220 miles above Earth.

The new flight engineers will begin a five-and-a-half month tour of duty once it docks with the station's Zvezda module on Thursday around 6:25 pm. They will be welcomed aboard by fellow Expedition 24 crewmembers Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson at around 10 pm when the hatch opens.

In September -- when Skvortsov, Kornienko and Caldwell Dyson return home in the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft that brought them to the station April 4 -- Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin will become the Expedition 25 crew.

U.S. Army Col. Wheelock, 50, is making his second trip into space. This will be the first spaceflight for Walker, 45, a graduate of Rice University.

Yurchikhin, 51, will be making his third trip into space. This will be his second long-duration stay aboard the station.

The trio will be aboard the ISS to see the final shuttle depart from its last planned mission to the lab in November before the fleet is finally retired, leaving the Soyuz to take over as the only means by which astronauts will be able to travel to the space station.


Image Caption: The Soyuz TMA-19 rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, June 16, 2010, carrying Expedition 24 NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock, and Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin to the International Space Station. Their Soyuz TMA-19 rocket launched at 3:35 a.m Kazakhstan time, or 5:35 p.m EDT. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi


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