Friday, October 09, 2009

European Takes Command Of Space Station

Veteran space flier Frank DeWinne became the first European to take command of the International Space Station today as an expedition crew prepared to return to Earth.

Russian outpost commander Gennady Padalka handed the helm of the station over to DeWinne in a brief ceremony aboard the orbital complex.

"I've always been proud to be European and Europeans always have had a great heritage in exploration. Therefore it is for me a great honor to take command of the International Space Station, the only human exploration outpost in space at this moment," said DeWinne, now commander of the 21st expedition to the station.

"It is also an honor and an achievement of the European Astronauts Corps and the (European Space Agency) human spaceflight program," he said.

"It also symbolizes the success of the International Space Station, where every partner -- big and small - can play an important role. It really shows what humans can achieve when they decide to work together and put aside their differences."

Padalka, who has been in command on the station since May, will depart the outpost and return to Earth this weekend with U.S. astronaut Michael Barratt and Cirque Du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte.

The trio will bid adieu to their crewmates around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and undock at 8:45 p.m. The Soyuz will reenter the Earth's atmosphere around 11:15 p.m. and then land in central Kazakhstan around 12:31 a.m. Sunday.

You can watch live coverage right here in The Flame Trench. Simply click the NASA TV box on the right to launch our NASA TV viewer. Be sure to refresh this page, too, for periodic updates.

A Belgian Air Force pilot, DeWinne joined the European Astronaut Corps. He provided technical support for the X38 Crew Return Vehicle project division within the Directorate of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, located at ESA's research and technology centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

In August 2001, De Winne was sent to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre near Moscow. Training to train for expeditions to the station as well as training to become a Soyuz flight engineer.

He served aboard the station during an 11-day Soyuz crew rotation in 2002. DeWinne launched to the station in May as part of the crew that brought staffing levels at the outpost to six for the first time.

He will return to Earth aboard a Soyuz in December.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long overdue. And I'm sure Frank DeWinne will do a good job during the remaining weeks of his ISS mission.