U. S., Russian Astronauts Depart for Space Station
Three U. S.and Russian astronauts lifted off from Kazakhstan early Tuesday bound for the International Space Station and a five month stay.
The Soyuz rocket carrying NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:51 a.m., EDT.
Nine minutes later, the three men were safely in orbit and headed toward a docking with the space station early Thursday.
The newcomers will be greeted by the station’s current commander Sunita Williams, of NASA, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.
The Russian capsule is also carrying 32 Medaka fish, the subjects in an experiment to determine how their skeletal systems fare in weightlessness. The small fish will be transferred to a new aquatic habitat that was delivered to the station by a Japanese cargo carrier in July.
On the Earth, Medaka are “neutrally buoyant,” or nearly weightless in their natural watery environment. Humans and other animals on Earth must contend with the forces of gravity, which determine the strength of their bones and muscles. Scientists would like to know if the bones and muscles of the small fish undergo the same changes that those of humans do during lengthy exposures to weightlessness.
The findings may help researchers addresses illnesses like osteoporosis on Earth as well as to help prepare astronauts for future deep space missions.
The space station’s newcomers will face a busy few weeks as they float aboard their new home.
On Sunday, the SpaceX dragon capsule that docked with the orbiting science lab earlier this month will depart for Earth and a landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast ofSouthern California.
Three days later, a Russian Progress cargo craft will lift off from Baikonur and dock to the station on the same day.
On Nov. 1, Williams and Hoshide will team up for a spacewalk outside the station to repair a coolant system leak on a remote solar power module.
It will be the third spacewalk for Williams and Hoshide since Aug. 30.
They are scheduled to head back to Earth with Malenchenko aboard an older Soyuz spacecraft on Nov. 18.