Sunday, November 23, 2014

Soyuz TMA-15M Spacecraft with Expedition 42 Crew Successfully Launches to Space Station

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 carrying Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

A Russian Soyuz-FG rocket with the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan on Sunday to deliver three new Expedition 42 crew members to the International Space Station (ISS), including Italy’s first female astronaut. The launch took place at 4:01 p.m. EST (3:01 a.m. on Nov. 24 Baikonur time). Terry Virts of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) now are safely in orbit. "Congratulations one more time on the successful insertion, but still you have a lot of work ahead of you," a Russian flight controller radioed. "So it's not time to relax yet". "Copy," Shkaplerov replied. "All right, talk to you later." The new crew will dock with the station’s Rassvet module at 9:53 p.m. Welcoming them aboard will be the current station residents, Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA and Alexander Samoukutyaev and Elena Serova of Roscosmos.

The arrival will make it the second time in the station's 16-year history that two women have been aboard on long-term missions. Wilmore, Samoukutyaev and Serova arrived at the space station in September aboard their Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft and will remain aboard until March 2015.

Live television from inside the TMA-15M command module showed Shkaplerov, strapped into the center seat, calmly monitoring cockpit displays and providing status reports to flight controllers. All three crew members appeared relaxed in the cramped cockpit, tightly strapped into their custom-contour seats as the booster accelerated toward orbit.

"Everything's fine on board, everything's nominal," Shkaplerov radioed.

The space station passed 260 miles above Baikonur a few moments before liftoff and commander Wilmore reported he was able to see the Soyuz as it climbed out of the clouds more than 500 miles behind and below the lab complex.



"The mission we'll be doing on the space station is going to be very busy," Virts said before launch. "We're going to be primarily focused on maintaining the station safely, keeping it running and leaving it a better place than when we (arrived).

Some of the cargo flown aboard this Soyuz will be used in research investigations that are either ongoing or planned aboard the International Space Station. Items such as questionnaires will be delivered to obtain in-flight data about crew member characteristics, such as day-to-day changes in health or incidence of pain or pressure in microgravity. One such investigation is Space Headaches which uses questionnaires to collect information about the prevalence and characteristics of crew members’ headaches in microgravity. This information is used to develop future countermeasures for headaches often caused by intracranial pressure change.

The crew faces a busy six-months in orbit, including a trio of spacewalks to prepare the station for a new fleet of U.S. commercial space taxis that are due to begin flying crew to the station in late 2017.

A veteran fighter pilot and a captain in the Italian air force, Cristoforetti holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering, has expertise in aerospace propulsion technology and more than 500 hours flying time in a variety of military aircraft. But going into space is "the fulfillment of a dream I've had since I was a child," she said.

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 as seen in this long exposure carrying Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 as seen in this long exposure carrying Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

"I think what's most fascinating is the experience as a whole," she said. "This whole experience of, in just a few years, turning from somebody who was very passionate about space and tried to read about space and had a lot of knowledge as an enthusiast, and then turning that person into somebody who's actually ready to fly to space, to live and work in space ... hopefully I'll be able to do that."

Asked about the significance of being the first Italian woman to fly in space, Cristoforetti said it was just the luck of the draw and that she did not attach any special significance to her selection.

"I have done nothing special to be the first Italian woman to fly into space, I just wanted to fly to space and I just happened to be the first," she said. "If I had done everything the same, if I had worked as hard, and if I had had the chance of becoming an astronaut, and if I had been the second, to me it would have been the same.

Credit: NASAcbsnews.com

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