10 April 2007

Fifth tourist arrives at ISS

Left to right: Simonyi, Kotov and Yurchikhin

Soyuz TMA-10, launched 7 April from Baikonur with three men - commander Col Oleg V. Kotov, flight engineer Fyodor N. Yurchikhin and tourist Charles Simonyi - on board, docked with the space station yesterday.

ZUI this article from Spaceflight Now:
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying two fresh crew members and a wealthy American space tourist docked with the international space station today to close out a two-day orbital chase. NASA, meanwhile, announced a $719 million contract extension with the Russian federal space agency to, in part, provide the Soyuz lifeboats and supplies needed to eventually boost the station's crew size from three to six.

With spacecraft commander Oleg Kotov monitoring an automated approach, the Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft docked at the downward facing port of the Russian Zarya module at 3:10 p.m. as the two spacecraft sailed high above Eastern Europe.

Joining Kotov in the cramped capsule were Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and U.S. software developer Charles Simonyi, who paid the Russians more than $20 million to become the fifth private citizen to visit the space station.

"Contact and capture, docking confirmed, at 11:10 p.m. Moscow time (3:10 p.m. EDT)," said NASA commentator Rob Navias from the Russian mission control center. "Docking confirmed, a perfect arrival. Soyuz TMA-10 has arrived at the international space station."


Yurchikhin and Kotov will replace Expedition 14 commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, who were launched to the station last Sept. 18 aboard the Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft currently docked to the aft port of the Zvezda command module.

Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin and Simonyi will return to Earth aboard the TMA-9 spacecraft April 20 after a 12-day handover period to familiarize the incoming cosmonauts with space station operations. Astronaut Sunita Williams, who joined the Expedition 14 crew in December after launch aboard the shuttle Discovery, will remain aboard the station with Yurchikhin and Kotov, returning to Earth aboard the shuttle Endeavour later this summer.

Lopez-Alegria eclipsed the American single-mission record of 196 days April 2. With landing April 20, the new record for longest time aloft on a single mission by a U.S. astronaut will stand at 214 days. Williams will beat that mark and set a new U.S. endurance record when she ultimately lands on the shuttle.

The Russian endurance record, of course, is over 400 days.

Soyuz TMA-9 crew: (Left to right) tourist Anousheh Ansari, commander Mikhail V. Tyurin and flight engineer Michael Lopez-Alegria

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