Veteran crew en route to space station
A trio of experienced astronauts blasted off Saturday night from Kazakhstan's Baikonour Cosmodrome to join the crew aboard the International Space Station.
Three veteran space travelers from three different countries are gearing up to launch toward the International Space Station tonight (July 14) to begin a months-long mission to the orbiting laboratory.Skip to next paragraph
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NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide will lift off on the Russian Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft at 10:40 p.m. EDT (0240 July 15 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The three-person team will become part of the space station's Expedition 32 mission, and is due to stay for about four months.
"We're really excited to be getting closer and closer to our launch in July," Williams said during a press conference in March. "It's going to be a great mission, really exciting, lots of things to do. We're sort of like a family and we've got a couple other great crew members up onboard."
Williams and her crewmates will join the three spaceflyers already living on the space station: commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, his cosmonaut colleague Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, who have all been in space since May.
In a cosmic coincidence, the Soyuz TMA-05M rocket carrying the new Expedition 32 crew will launch on July 15 local time at Baikonur Cosmodrome, marking the 37th anniversary of the world's first international crewed space mission in 1975: the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. That historic mission marked the first space docking between a Soviet and U.S. spacecraft, paving the way for the international cooperation needed to build the International Space Station. [Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in Pictures]
Today, the $100 billion space station is the product of five space agencies and 15 different countries working together to build the orbiting lab piece-by-piece since the first component launched in 1998.
Like the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the Soyuz TMA-05 mission will take two days to arrive at its destination, with docking at the station planned for early July 17. The Expedition 32 crew will divide its time between space station maintenance and a hefty allocation of science research.
"What I'm expecting is a lot of work," Malenchenko told SPACE.com. "Every day it's hours and hours, and it's my responsibility to do everything very well right on time and don't make mistakes, because before I start the work many people work for years on each of these experiments."
Here's a brief look at the astronauts and cosmonaut launching tonight:
Yuri Malenchenko: Malenchenko, 50, is a colonel in the Russian Air Force and will command the Soyuz spacecraft for Russia's Federal Space Agency. He is making his third trip to the orbiting lab as a member of an Expedition crew. A native of Ukraine, he flew his first long-duration spaceflight aboard Russia's Mir space station.