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Former high-school teacher among incoming space station crew

After weeks of delay, three astronauts are slated to blast off in a Soyuz space capsule to the International Space Station. 

By Mike WallSPACE.com / May 14, 2012

Sergei Revin (left), Gennady Padalka (center) and Joe Acaba (right) pose in front of the hatchway to their Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft as they completed their final 'fit check' inspection of the vehicle on Friday. The three will launch toward the space station on May 14.

Victor Zelentsov/NASA

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Three astronauts are finally ready to blast off toward the International Space Station tonight (May 14), after weeks of delay caused during testing of their Russian-built space capsule.

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NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin are slated to lift off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome tonight at 11:01 p.m. EDT (0301 GMT Tuesday). They'll ride a Soyuz spaceship into orbit, ultimately berthing with the station early Thursday morning (May 17), NASA officials said.

Acaba, Padalka and Revin were originally scheduled to launch on March 29, but a botched pressure test cracked their Soyuz crew capsule. The flight was pushed back by a month and a half to allow enough time for Russian space contractor RSC Energia to ready a new capsule for service.

Once aboard the space station, the three spaceflyers will bring the orbiting lab back to its full complement of six occupants. Their fellow Expedition 31 crewmembers — NASA's Don Pettit, Dutchman Andre Kuipers and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko — have had the station to themselves since April 27.

Acaba, Padalka and Revin will live in orbit for the next four months, eventually returning to Earth in mid-September, NASA officials said. The three newcomers will all serve as flight engineers under the command of Expedition 31 chief Kononenko. [Quiz: The Reality of Life in Orbit]

New space experiences

Acaba, 44, is a native of Inglewood, Calif., and is making his second career spaceflight. He has been to the station once before, on the space shuttle Discovery's STS-119 mission in 2009. But he returned  to Earth after just 13 days on that flight, so this will be a new experience for him.

"I'm looking forward to going from someone who worked for two weeks in space as a shuttle crewmember to now living in space — living and working in space — as a long-duration crewmember," Acaba told reporters earlier this year. "Personally, I think it'll be a much different experience — instead of just a whirlwind, 'let's get the job done' to, you know, 'now this is your home.'"

Acaba is one of NASA's educator astronauts and taught high school and middle school before joining NASA's astronaut ranks in 2004.

Padalka, 53, is a veteran spaceflyer making his third trip to the International Space Station on the Expedition 31 flight. A father of three from Krasnodar, Russia he has racked up a total of 585 days in Earth orbit.

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