Expedition 40 all set to go

May 27, 2014
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst in Soyuz TMA-13M, the spacecraft that will carry him, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to the International Space Station on 28 May 2014. Five days before launch, the Expedition 40/41 astronauts took one last look at their spacecraft in the scaffolding. The next day it was rolled out to the pad for the flight to space. Credit: ESA

From unusual training to upholding cherished traditions, everything is being done to ensure that ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and his crewmates arrive at the International Space Station on Thursday safely and in good health – including being flipped upside down and relieving themselves on the wheel of a bus.

The crew landed at the Baikonur site in Kazakhstan two weeks before the 28 May launch and continue preparing themselves for the disorientation of living in .

Russian physicians believe that tilting astronauts heads-down and spinning them in chairs gives balance organs a first taste of the confusion they will experience in weightlessness.

Most astronauts suffer during the first days in orbit as their bodies adapt to the new environment, rather like sea sickness.

The brain and other organs receive conflicting signals in weightlessness – Alexander's eyes will signal that he is moving around the Space Station but his sense of motion will report the opposite.

However, crews must operate the Soyuz immediately after launch and then start work as soon as they board the Space Station. During the first days in space many human physiology experiments study how the body adapts to the new environment.

Crews are quarantined before launch, as contact with people other than physicians and key personnel is kept to a minimum. A simple cold puts the whole mission at risk – and Alexander has been training 2.5 years for his flight.

Traditions

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and crewmate NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (background) prepare for the disorientation of living in weightlessness. Russian physicians believe that tilting astronauts heads-down and spinning them in chairs gives balance organs a first taste of the confusion they will experience in weightlessness. This picture was taken one week before their launch to the International Space Station on 28 May 2014. Credit: ESA

Many traditions have developed over the years in the run-up to a Soyuz ascent. The crew sleep in the 'cosmonaut hotel' and sign their room doors before leaving for the last time for the pad.

Earlier, they each plant a tree behind the hotel to leave a living legacy as they circle our planet. The day before launch, they watch the classic Russian film White Sun of the Desert.

On the day itself a bus will take Alexander, Russian commander Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to the launch site. A pit stop to relieve themselves en route is obligatory because that's what Yuri Gagarin did on his way to becoming the first human in space.

And as a final precaution, a last blessing is given by an orthodox priest – better safe than sorry.

Expedition 40/41 crew (from left) NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during the traditional tree-planting ceremony in the run-up to their launch to the International Space Station on 28 May 2014. Many traditions have developed over the years in the run-up to a Soyuz ascent. The crew sleep in the ‘cosmonaut hotel’ and sign their room doors before leaving for the last time for the pad. Earlier, they each plant a tree behind the hotel to leave a living legacy as they circle our planet. The day before launch, they watch the classic Russian film White Sun of the Desert. Credit: ESA

A lift takes the trio to the top of the 45 m-tall rocket and they clamber into their spacecraft. They have a two-hour wait in the cramped cockpit as technicians complete preparations for the rocket to consume 274 tonnes of propellants on the way to orbit.

In less than 10 minutes they will travel 1640 km and accelerate to an astonishing 28000 km/h before arriving six hours later at their new home for the next six months, the International Space Station.

he Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft is rolled out by train from its MIK preparation building to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad on Monday 26 May 2014 in Kazakhstan. The launch of the Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station with Expedition 40/41 ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian cosmonaut Max Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman is scheduled for 20:56 GMT (21:56 pm CEST) on 28 May. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

Follow the launch and mission via the Blue Dot blog live starting on the evening of 28 May; more details will follow.

Explore further: Munich to Alexander: all systems go

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Munich to Alexander: all systems go

May 26, 2014

An atmosphere of rising excitement can be sensed in the control centre: everything is ready for ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst's voyage to the International Space Station blasting off next Wednesday.

Emergency eye wash in freefall

Apr 09, 2014

We all know what to do if something harmful splashes into our eyes: wash with lots of water. As with many things in space, however, a simple operation on Earth can become quite complicated when floating around ...

Three astronauts land back on Earth in Soyuz capsule

May 14, 2014

Three astronauts, including a Russian and an American, touched down safely on Earth Wednesday aboard a Soyuz capsule, the first such landing since Russia's relationship with the West slumped amid the Ukraine ...

Blood science on the ISS

May 19, 2014

Four years of training, a hair-raising launch strapped to 274 tonnes of rocket propellants, docking two spacecraft travelling at 28 800 km/h and living in one of the most inhospitable environments known. ...

Recommended for you

NuSTAR celebrates two years of science in space

27 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, a premier black-hole hunter among other talents, has finished up its two-year prime mission, and will be moving onto its next phase, ...

Video: ATV-5 separation from Ariane 5

40 minutes ago

These images were taken by cameras on the Ariane 5 launcher that rocketed skywards on 29 July 2014 with Europe's last cargo vessel to visit the International Space Station, ATV-5. The video shows the separation of ATV Georges ...

User comments : 0