New Crew Launches Toward International Space Station


A Russian Soyuz spacecraft soared into space Sunday carrying three new residents for the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA astronaut Timothy (T.J.) Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi launched on time at 4:52 p.m. EDT (2152 GMT) on the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"Everything's fine onboard the vehicle," Kotov radioed shortly after the rocket hurtled into the sky. "Everybody feels great, no problems, no issues."

Kotov commanded the flight, which should catch up with the orbiting laboratory on Tuesday at 5:58 p.m. EDT (2258 GMT). The three spaceflyers are due to take up residence at the station as Expedition 22 flight engineers. Then in March 2010, Kotov will take over the helm as commander of Expedition 23.

The two spaceflyers currently onboard the space station — NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, Expedition 22 commander, and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev — watched a video of the launch.

"Congratulations to the entire team on another milestone event," Williams radioed down to Mission Control. "We're looking forward to their arrival in two short days."

Two veterans and a rookie

Kotov and Soichi are veterans in space, while Creamer is making his first voyage beyond Earth. Nonetheless, Creamer is not nervous, he wrote on the microblogging site Twitter, where he posts under the name "Astro_TJ."

"Got a little 'excited/anticipatory' now that the rocket is at the pad, but nothing close to nervous," he wrote Friday.

The spaceflyers are in for a packed mission that will overlap with two visiting space shuttle flights as well as Soyuz and unmanned spacecraft arrivals.

"Really it's going to be very tense mission for us," Kotov said in a preflight news conference. "We're going to work with two shuttle crews, one of them bringing up the new module."

The STS-120 flight of the shuttle Endeavour in February 2010 is slated to deliver the Tranquility module and the Cupola, an observatory room that will offer a 360-degree view out of its large window.

"Believe me, it's really exciting and I'm really looking forward to it," Kotov said.

Crew camaraderie

Kotov, Noguchi and Creamer are scheduled to stay aboard the space station until May 2010.

"I can't think of anybody else I'd rather be with, laughing and working together," Creamer said. "One of the most wonderful aspects of working with this crew is that there's a very good sense of humor. We're very comfortable together."

In between station maintenance tasks and big assembly jobs like attaching the new modules, the ISS residents will fill their time with scientific research. Kotov, a medical doctor, plans to do some medical studies.

"I am going to continue my medical research," he told in a preflight interview. "I have my own medical experiment program."