December 14, 2010

Paolo Nespoli Set For Launch Tomorrow

The next spaceflight by a European astronaut is about to begin: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and his crewmates will be launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 15 December at 20:09 CET to the International Space Station.

Paolo Nespoli's MagISStra mission is Europe's third long-duration flight on the International Space Station (ISS). During his six-month mission, Paolo will serve as a flight engineer with Dmitri Kondratyev and Catherine Coleman as members of Expeditions 26 and 27.

The crew are currently in quarantine waiting for launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, spending their time on final simulations and other preparations.

The Soyuz launcher with their spacecraft on top was transported on Monday morning to the launch site "“ the same pad where Yuri Gagarin began the first human spaceflight almost 50 years ago.

The crew will suit up for their rocket ride on Wednesday evening, boarding Soyuz TMA-20 some hours before the night launch on 16 December at 01:09 local time in Baikonur.

After two and a half days of coasting and fine-tuning the craft's orbit, the crew will dock with the ISS on Friday 17 December.

Paolo's MagISStra mission will end in May 2011, when the spacefarers land smoothly on the steppes of Kazakhstan in their capsule.

Action-packed mission

Paolo Nespoli has more than 30 science experiments waiting for him in space. These range from human research and fluid physics to radiation, biology and technology demonstrations "“ not only for ESA, but also for the US, Japanese and Canadian space agencies.

Most of the experiments will use Europe's Columbus laboratory, the multi-purpose research module that has been a vital part of the ISS since February 2008.

In addition to his flight engineer duties and a comprehensive research program, Paolo will participate in the docking operations of two visiting unmanned cargo craft: Europe's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, and Japan's second supply ferry. Both are planned for February to resupply the ISS.

Next April, Paolo will be joined by an Italian colleague for 12 days: ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori will arrive on STS-134 Space Shuttle mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

See and learn with Paolo online

Using ESA's novel 3D camera, Paolo will use his privileged viewpoint in space to create unprecedented images of the ISS. He will share some of them during the mission via twitter.com/astro_paolo and on the ESA YouTube channel.

As part of his educational program, Paolo will participate in Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut, an international initiative to promote exercise and nutrition among 8"“12 year-olds, and in the Greenhouse in Space activity for 12"“14 year-olds. Both include interactive online services, open to all.


Image Caption: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli during training at Star City, 15 November 2010. He will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) on a long-duration mission in December, serving as flight engineer for Expeditions 26 and 27. This will be the third six-month mission by a European astronaut on the Station. From December 2010 to May 2011, Paolo Nespoli, ESA's Italian astronaut, will carry out an intensive program of experiments, ranging from radiation monitoring to measurements that could improve oil recovery in petroleum reservoirs. His duties aboard the ISS include participating in the docking operations to receive two cargo spacecraft: Europe's second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Johannes Kepler, and the second Japanese HII Transfer Vehicle (HTV). Both are unmanned spacecraft used to resupply the ISS. Nespoli will be the prime operator for berthing the HTV to the Station after the free-flying vehicle has been captured by his crewmate Catherine Coleman. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2010


On the Net: