Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Space Station Crew Strapped In For 2:09 P.M. Launch

A multinational crew is strapped into a Soyuz spacecraft at a central Asian spaceport as final preps continue for a planned launch toward the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, U.S. astronaut Catherine Coleman and the European Space Agency's Paolo Nespoli of Italy are slated to blast at 2:09 p.m. EST from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"As Yuri Gagarin said, 'Let's go!" Nespoli told mission managers before heading off to Site No. 1, the same pad where Gagarin launched on the first human spaceflight on April 12, 1961.

You can watch launch coverage live here in The Flame Trench beginning at 1:15 p.m. Click the NASA TV box on the right side of the page to launch our NASA TV viewer. Live coverage of docking at the station at 3:12 p.m. Friday will begin at 2:30 p.m. that day.

Kondratyev, Coleman and Nespoli will be at the space station to mark the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's mission.

"As the crew that is onboard the International Space Station on this very special day, we won't be walking on the pages of history, we'll be floating," Coleman told reporters during a final preflight news conference.

The three space flyers are members of the 26th expedition to the station, which has been staffed continuously since November 2000. The crew is scheduled to return to Earth in their Soyuz spacecraft next May.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA TV screen grab of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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