Times Ahead for the
International Space Station
this image from television on Saturday, May 3, 2003, from
space, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is seen docked at
the International Space Station.
Three come down.
That’s the new math NASA and its international
partners are using for the latest crew exchange for the International
Space Station. And never before in the Station’s history have
the numbers added up like this.
At 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday, April 25th, NASA Astronaut
Ed Lu and Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (mal entch’ en co)
launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan. These
two men make up the Expedition 7 crew, and they’ll serve aboard
the Station until October. Malenchenko is the Commander while
Lu serves as the NASA International Space Station Science Officer.
This isn’t the first time they’ve worked together in space. Lu
and Malenchenko flew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis to the
Space Station in September 2000 on a mission to help prepare the
Station for its first permanent crew. They even performed a spacewalk
together during that flight.
Originally, Lu, Malenchenko and another cosmonaut
were scheduled to fly to the Station aboard Atlantis in March.
But the loss of the Shuttle Columbia February 1 and the grounding
of NASA’s Shuttle fleet forced a major change of plans. NASA and
its partners decided Expedition 7 would have to travel to the
Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. And since there aren’t
going to be any Shuttles bringing water, food and other supplies
to the Station anytime soon, the three-person Expedition 7 crew
became a two-person crew. In the more than two years that the
International Space Station has had inhabitants, it’s never had
just a two-person crew.
"The only reason we can continue this program
is because Russia has the capacity to launch Progress (cargo spacecraft)
and Soyuz," says Lu. "It’s very important to show the
world what we can do together."
Lu and Malenchenko arrived at the Station early
Monday morning, April 28. As the hatches between the Space Station
and Soyuz opened, the astronaut and cosmonaut were greeted with
hugs from Expedition 6 crew they’re replacing — Commander Ken
Bowersox, Flight Engineer and Russian Cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin
(boo-DAH-rin) and International Space Station Science Officer
Don Pettit, who have been on the Station since November. The Expedition
6 and 7 crews will spend six days together, transferring supplies
and getting the Station’s new residents familiar with their new
home away from home.
On Saturday May 3, the Expedition 6 crew will
say goodbye to Lu and Malenchenko and board a Soyuz spacecraft
that’s been docked to the Station since last fall. Bowersox, Burdarin
and Pettit will then undock their Soyuz for the trip home. Less
than four hours later, they’ll land in the middle of a high desert
in central Kazakhstan, which will end their five-and-a-half month
mission. Their landing will be another "first" for NASA.
No U.S. astronauts have ever landed using a Russian spacecraft.
Lu and his crewmate will return to Earth the same way when Expedition
7’s mission ends in October.
If you’d like more information about Expedition
6, 7 or the International Space Station, visit: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station.
Reporting from Moscow