Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cosmonauts exchange command of space station

A day before his planned return to Earth with two crewmates, Russian Dmitry Kondratyev today handed over command of the International Space Station to fellow cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko.

In a brief ceremony the pair shook hands while four other Expedition 27 crew members clapped and offered congratulations.

Kondratyev, American Cady Coleman and Italian Paolo Nespoli are scheduled to close the hatch of their Soyuz spacecraft around 2 p.m. EDT Monday and undock at 5:23 p.m.

Kondratyev, Coleman and Nespoli have spent five-and-a-half months living on the station.

Their departure will mark the end of Expedition 27 and the start of Expedition 28, which along with Borisenko will include Russian Alexander Samokutyaev and American Ron Garan.

Shuttle Endeavour's six astronauts will remain at the station until early May 30, and three more Expedition 28 crew members are scheduled to launch June 7 from Kazakhstan.

Monday's undocking will be the first by a Soyuz while a shuttle was present at the station, a procedure NASA refers to as "dual-docked operations."

The shuttle and station programs have agreed to take advantage of the departing Soyuz crew to capture historic photos of the second-to-last visiting shuttle and other three other vehicles docked at the outpost.

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