Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watch It Live: Station Crew, Clown Set For Launch

A Russian cosmonaut, an American astronaut and the world's first space clown are slated to launch early Wednesday from Kazakhstan on a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

First-time flyer Maxim Suraev, veteran NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte are scheduled to strap in to a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:14 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

You can watch live coverage of the launch here in The Flame Trench beginning at 2:30 a.m. Simply click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer and refresh this page for periodic updates.

The crew is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station early Friday. We'll have live docking coverage beginning at 4 a.m. EDT. The docking is expected to occur around 4:36 a.m. EDT.

The gleaming Soyuz rocket and spacecraft were transported on a rail car from an assembly building to the same launch pad where Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off April 12, 1961, on the first human spaceflight.

Williams, 51, is making his third trip to the station. He flew as a shuttle mission specialist in May 2000 on a mission to outfit what then was an embryonic station: a Russian space tug and an American connecting node that were linked in orbit in late 1998. The Russian Zvezda Service Module had not yet been launched.

Suraev, 37, is making his first space flight. He graduated with honors in 1994 from the Kachin Air Force Pilot School as pilot-engineer, then graduated with honors from the Zhukovski Air Force Academy in 1997 as pilot-engineer-researcher. He received a law degree from the Russian Academy of Civil Service in 2007.

Suraev is qualified to fly L-39 and Su-27 aircraft, and has logged around 700 hours of flight time. Suraev is a Class 3 Air Force pilot, a qualified diver and paraborne instructor. From December 1997 to November 1999, Suraev completed basic space training. In November 1999 he was qualified as a test-cosmonaut.

Starting January 2000 he was in ISS advanced training. From March 2006 until April 2008 Suraev was assigned as a backup Expedition 17 crewmember. From April 2008 until March 2009 he was a member of the Expedition 19 backup crew.

Laliberte, 50, is definitely the media darling of the crew.

At a traditional prelaunch news conference at Baikonur on Monday, he cracked jokes and donned a red clown nose and was genuinely enthusiastic about the upcoming trip to the space station.

"I am not a scientist, I'm not a doctor, I'm not an engineer," he said. "I'm an organizer, a showman, and a creator -- I have an entertaining personality, so that is really what I am bringing here."

Laliberte is paying the Russian Federal Space Agency an estimated $35 million for the 12-day round trip to the station.

The former street performer plans to stage the first artistic event from the station -- an Oct. 9 poetry reading for the One Drop Foundation, an organization he set up in 2007. He aims to promote the protection of the world's water supply while circling 220 miles above the planet.

"I start with the simple idea of reading a poem, which will involve characters like the sun, the moon and a drop of water," he said. "Those characters will then engage in a discussion, which will take the form of a little poetic story that we will read to the population of Earth."

The organization's web site says the poetic tale was written especially for the occasion by renowned novelist and Man-Booker Prize-winner Yann Martel.

Taking part in the program on Earth: Former U.S. Vice president Al Gore, U2, Tatuya Ishii, Peter Gabriel, Patrick Bruel, Shakira, A.R. Rahman, Julie Payette and many others who will join voices with Guy Laliberte to "celebrate water."

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge the NASA images of the Soyuz rocket being transferred from its assembly building to launch pad A-1 at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where a new International Space Station crew and a famous circus clown will blast off early Wednesday. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

1 comment:

USA said...

Can we trust Russian Clowns to bring the US to space?