Monday, November 30, 2009

Soyuz set to depart, reducing station crew to two

The International Space Station is about to become a lonelier place with the departure of three astronauts and cosmonauts today, which will leave just two men aboard the outpost for the next three weeks.

Belgian Frank De Winne, Canadian Bob Thirsk and Russian Roman Romanenko are set to undock from the orbiting science complex at 10:56 p.m. EST in their Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft.

The Expedition 21 crew members are scheduled to say goodbye to the two residents staying behind -- American Jeff Williams and Russian Maxim Suraev -- and close the Soyuz hatch at 7:50 p.m.

After undocking, the Soyuz plans to fire its thrusters at 1:25 a.m. Tuesday to start a drop from orbit that should deliver the crew to a touchdown on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 2:15 a.m.

Click here to open a NASA TV video player and watch all the events live.

Live NASA TV coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. for the farewell ceremony, resumes at 10:30 p.m. for undocking and then again at 1 a.m. for the landing.

The returning crew members will have spent 188 days in space, all but two aboard the station.

Their departure marks the start of Expedition 22 with Williams and Suraev, who will man the outpost alone until the planned Dec. 23 arrival of another Soyuz carrying three new crew members: Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, American T.J. Creamer, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

They'll launch Dec. 21 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Among the returning crew members, De Winne was the first European Space Agency astronaut to serve as the station's commander.

He ceremonially handed off control to Williams last week before shuttle Atlantis departed with Nicole Stott, a flight engineer on Expeditions 20 and 21.

Thirsk was the first Canadian Space Agency astronaut to conduct a long-duration stay in orbit.

Romanenko is the son of cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, who once lived on the Mir space station for more than 300 days.

Click here to read the official Expedition 21/22 Press Kit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alrighty - two dudes in space.