Monday, March 14, 2011

Kelly Hands Over Command Of Space Station

Outgoing International Space Station skipper Scott Kelly handed command of the outpost to Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev today as the U.S. astronaut and two crewmates prepared to depart the complex early Wednesday.

"We'll miss this place. But we look forward to getting back to Earth," Kelly said.

Kelly and two cosmonauts -- Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka - will climb aboard a Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday night and then depart the outpost early Wednesday. Landing on the central steppes of Kazakhstan is slated for 3:48 a.m. Wednesday.

In the handover ceremony, Kelly took time to send condolences to the people of Japan, which is one of 15 partner nations participating in the station program.

At least 10,000 people were killed in an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed it last Friday.

"Our hearts go out to our partners in Japan, who have suffered greatly. We really feel for them, and we know they will recover from this. The Japanese people are very, very resilient."

Japan's ISS Mission Control Center north of Tokyo was severely damaged during the disaster. NASA will control the Kibo Laboratory facilities at the station until operations at control center resume. The Tsukuba Space Center is located about 30 miles northeast of Tokyo.

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