New space crew joins ISS on Olympic torch mission (Update)

Sep 26, 2013 by Vasily Maximov
Russia's Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft blasts off from the Russian leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome early on September 26, 2013.

An American and two Russians Thursday boarded the International Space Station after a lightning journey from Earth, on a mission that will see the Olympic torch for the 2014 Sochi Games taken into space for the first time.

Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky of Russia blasted off without a hitch from the Baikonur space centre that Moscow leases from Central Asia's ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

Their Soyuz-TMA-10M capsule docked successfully with the ISS just six hours later, in a new shortcut route now used by the Russian space agency. The new trio shortly afterwards joined the existing three-person crew on board.

The new team was greeted by Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and his two flight engineers—Karen Nyberg of NASA and Italian Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

Kotov and Ryazansky are expected to make history during the mission by carrying into open space the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games that Russia is hosting in February in the Black Sea city of Sochi.

The torch, which on October 6 is due to start a relay around Russia, is not yet with the cosmonauts and is due to be carried up to space by the next Soyuz crew, who are due to travel to the ISS on November 7.

Kotov and Ryazansky are expected to take it into open space on a spacewalk on November 9, although Russian officials have made clear that the torch will at no point be lit, for safety reasons.

"It would be strange if a cosmonaut went into a rocket with a lit torch," joked Kotov in the pre-flight news conference.

It will then be returned to Earth by Yurchikhin when he flies back home with his two crewmates Parmitano and Nyberg days later on November 11.

An American and two Russians Thursday boarded the ISS after a journey from Earth, on a mission that will see the Olympic torch for the 2014 Sochi Games taken into space for the first time.

The landing and take-off schedule means that for a few days, around the time of the torch spacewalk, the space station will be staffed by a record number of nine astronauts.

Fast track to space

The capsule orbited the Earth just four times on its way to the ISS as opposed to the usual 30, under a technique originally devised in the Soviet era but only adopted on a regular basis in the past year.

Scientists and space travellers had long weighed the benefits of such a sprint run.

The longer flight allows crew members to get better acclimated to the stresses of space while also testing their physical endurance—the ride takes a full 48 hours.

The shortcuts were abandoned after a few trial runs by the Soviet Union because one cosmonaut became so violently ill during the voyage that mission control at one point feared for his life.

But two such quick trips were successfully completed earlier this year and Russia decided to repeat the experience with a view to making them standard for future travel to the ISS.

Russian state television reported that among those present at the launch at Baikonur was French actor Gerard Depardieu, who was awarded Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year.

L-R: Members of the International space crew, American astronaut Michael Hopkins and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky walk to their bus after at the Baikonur cosmodrome on September 25, 2013.

"I cannot be a cosmonaut, I am too large," the burly actor joked to Russian television, appearing in typically rumbustious form.

The four-month stay of the three incumbent crew has been more eventful than they might have liked.

Parmitano suffered a scare during a spacewalk on July 16 when his helmet began to fill with an unidentified liquid. He described being blinded and suffocating as he struggled to make his way back to the airlock.

Russia meanwhile is struggling to prove to the world's other spacefaring nations that its mostly Soviet-designed systems are reliable enough to continue humans' conquest of space.

Russia's Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft blasts off from the Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome on September 26, 2013.

The 2011 retirement of the US Space Shuttle programme made Soyuz the world's last remaining manned link with the ISS.

But Russia has been recently blighted by a growing string of space failures that include the July 2 explosion shortly after takeoff from Baikonur of an unmanned Proton-M rocket.

The accident prompted Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to formally reprimand Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) chief Vladimir Popovkin—a signal that his job was not safe.

Explore further: After Rosetta, Japanese mission aims for an asteroid in search of origins of Earth's water

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

American, two Russians take shortcut to space

Sep 25, 2013

An American and two Russians blasted off Thursday for the International Space Station atop a Soyuz rocket that will slash more than a day off the usual travel time.

Russian cosmonauts to take torch to space

Jun 24, 2013

Russian cosmonauts will in November take the Olympic torch to the International Space Station and on a space walk ahead of the 2014 winter games hosted in Sochi, Russia's space agency announced Monday.

Russia PM reprimands space chief for failures

Aug 02, 2013

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday issued an official reprimand to the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos after a series of embarrassing rocket launch failures.

Soyuz capsule docks with space station

May 29, 2013

A Soyuz capsule carrying an American, Russian and Italian successfully docked Wednesday with the International Space Station, where the new crew will spend six months conducting a variety of experiments.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

1 hour ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

8 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

11 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

11 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

12 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.