[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next] - [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

Mission Complete, Almost:

Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC

Mission Complete, Almost: Space Station Crew Prepare For An Unusual

The astronauts of the Expedition 6 International Space Station crew are
preparing for a first in NASA's history of human space flight. They're
scheduled to return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule.

While the Russians have been using the Soyuz for decades and American
astronauts have flown into space twice before on the craft, NASA has
never before put one of its own on a Soyuz for a landing. 

The Expedition 6 astronauts, Ken Bowersox and Don Pettit, with their
cosmonaut counterpart Nikolai Budarin at the controls, are scheduled to
touch down May 4 (10:03 p.m. EDT May 3) in northern Kazakhstan. The crew
is leaving the Station after a successful, but emotional, five months in
orbit. During that time, the Space Shuttle Columbia was lost and the
Shuttle fleet was temporarily grounded.

>From undocking to landing, the crew's Soyuz trip is expected to last
about three hours and 23 minutes. Just about everything that happens is
automated; the crew has little to do but hold on tight. 

About 15 minutes before the Soyuz lands, it begins to deploy a series of
parachutes to slow its descent. Then, a mere two seconds before landing
-- less than three feet above the ground -- six engines on the
spacecraft fire toward the Earth to cushion the touchdown.

A landing in a Soyuz is generally bumpier than on a Shuttle, so
Bowersox, Pettit and Budarin will ride home in custom-built reclining
seats formed to fit their bodies. The seats help cushion the landing and
distribute the shock; the impact measures about four times the force of
gravity, or four Gs.

In the past, cosmonauts have suffered some minor injuries -- bumps and
bruises -- during a Soyuz landing, NASA flight surgeon Dr. Terrance
Taddeo, says. But "nothing we're medically concerned about," he says.

The Expedition 6 crew will also be wearing what Dr. Taddeo calls
"anti-G" garments, which help to prevent blood from pooling in their
legs when gravity kicks in.

Of course, after more than five months in space, any gravity will be a
shock to the crew. Within minutes of landing, Russian space officials
will set up a portable medical tent and carefully take the Soyuz crew
members to it, one-by-one. Bowersox, Pettit and Budarin will spend their
first moments back on Earth in special recliners, readapting to
gravity's pull. About two hours later, they'll begin a trip to Star
City, Russia -- outside Moscow -- where they'll spend at least 16 days
undergoing medical tests and physical therapy.

Back on orbit, another first: the typical three-person Space Station
crew scaled down to two. NASA and its International Partners have
determined a smaller crew will be able to maintain the Station and the
scientific experiments on board, while reducing the need for water and
other supplies aboard the Station. For now, Russian Progress and Soyuz
spacecraft will be the only means of ferrying supplies to the Station,
and those vehicles have far less cargo room than the Shuttle. Once the
Shuttle is back to flying, it will be able to carry enough supplies to
support a three-person Station crew again.

The grounding of the Shuttle fleet affects the Space Station in another
way; construction is on hold for now. Before the Columbia accident, the
Shuttles were scheduled this year and next winter for a series of
missions to complete America's portion of the International Space
Station, known as Node 2.

That construction plan will kick back into gear as a first priority,
once the Shuttles return to flight. 

Related links:

Read Expedition Six NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit's latest Space
Chronicle, "Homeward Bound", from aboard the International Space

View the Expedition Six Gallery:

An interactive feature of the Expedition 6 and 7 Launch and Transfer:
+ View this interactive feature 

An interactive feature of the Soyuz assembly:
+ View this interactive feature

For more information on the mission,

Via the sarex mailing list at AMSAT.ORG courtesy of AMSAT-NA.
To unsubscribe, send "unsubscribe sarex" to Majordomo@amsat.org