(Sen) - NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide are on their way to the International Space Station. Their Soyuz TMA-05M launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan this morning (GMT) and is scheduled to dock with the ISS in a couple of days.
The trio will join commander Gennady Padalka, NASA flight engineer Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Revin.
Watch a video of the launch (new window)
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams flew on the space shuttle, STS-116, and served on the space station in 2006-2007 as a member of Expedition 14 and 15. She will command Expedition 33 in September when current station commander Gennady Padalka returns to Earth.
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, at the age of 50, is a very experienced astronaut. He had a distinguished military career as a pilot before entering Cosmonaut training in 1987. His first spaceflight was in 1994 when he spent 126 days in space aboard the Mir space station. He also trained at NASA and was on the Space Shuttle for mission STS-106. Malenchenko has served aboard the ISS twice, first with the ISS 7 crew between April and October 2003 and then again with Expedition 16 between October 2007 and April 2008.
JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide was selected by JAXA in 1999 as one of three candidates for the ISS and began his ISS astronaut training then. He also trained as a Soyuz-TMA flight engineer in 2004, before his first space mission aboard the Space Shuttle in 2008, spending 14 days in space as part of mission STS-124.
Looking forward to their arrival at the space station are current crew Padalka, Acaba and Revin.
Station commander for Expedition 32 is Gennady Padalka. It is Padalka’s fourth time in space and his third voyage to the ISS, having participated in Expedition 9 in 2004 and commanded Expedition 19 in 2009. Padalka also spent 198 days aboard the Mir space station in 1998-9. He is serving as a flight engineer on the ISS.
This is Joe Acaba's second time in space, having previously been part of the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-119 mission to the ISS in March 2009. Acaba spent almost 13 hours of the mission outside the ISS in two separate spacewalks. Acaba will serve as a flight engineer during Expedition 31.
It is Padalka’s fourth time in space and his third voyage to the ISS, having participated in Expedition 9 in 2004 and commanded Expedition 19 in 2009. Padalka also spent 198 days aboard the Mir space station in 1998-9. He is serving as a flight engineer on the ISS.
For Sergei Revin this is his first time in space. He was selected to train as a cosmonaut in 1996, and completed spaceflight training in 1998. He is serving as a flight engineer.
Pictured from the left are Flight Engineers Akihiko Hoshide, Yuri Malenchenko, Sunita Williams and Joe Acaba, Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin. Photo credit: NASA
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station since the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle in 2011. However, several companies are working on spacecraft designed to carry astronauts. In the US, NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program is supporting the work of several businesses including Sierra Nevada Corporation (Dreamchaser), Boeing (CST-100), Blue Origin and SpaceX (Dragon). Others planning to ferry crew include ATK which is developing Liberty. In Europe, the European Space Agency is reviewing ideas for future developments of its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) which is currently used to ship cargo to the space station. It is thought that one possibility is modifying the ATV to enable it to carry crew.