New crew arrives to ISS

A new crew made up of Russian cosmonaut Gennadi Padalka and Michael Fincke of the United States has arrived to a hearty welcome in the International Space Station given by Michael Foale and Alexander Kaleri, the Mission Control Centre based near Moscow has said.

The previous crew (the eighth expedition) will leave the ISS on April 30. In its homeward trip to the earth it will be accompanied by Dutchman Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency. He has arrived to the ISS today on a ten-day business mission. Their descent module will land in Kazakhstan.

In July and August 2004 Padalka and Fincke will make two spacewalks, wearing the new Russian spacesuits Orlan.

During their first extravehicular activities, the service module will get a reflector for the new European cargo ship the Jules Verne, or ATV. In the second spacewalk, the crewmen will replace the solar cells, outliving their service life, of the functional cargo module and activate some service systems.

The previous crew was to do all that before but, during its only spacewalk on February 27, 2004 Kaleri had his spacesuit overheated because a pipe in the cooling system had got pinched (the service life of the Russian spacesuit Orlan-M of the 2000 make was actually out). For this reason, the EVA time of the crew was axed and it could not do everything planned.

The Orlan-M design is semirigid. The body and helmet of metal make a single whole, while the arms and legs are made of soft materials. The spacesuit is entered into from behind through a special hatch, whose lid houses an independent life-support system. Designers provided for the possibility of replacing removable parts of the spacesuit and refilling the temperature-control system with water.

Just after the docking of the ISS with the Soyuz ship carrying the ninth expedition, NASA deputy chief Fred Gregory said that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration thinks it premature to send the next expedition to the ISS for a year. The agency is not yet ready, he said. But we'll get back to considering the Russian proposal some time later, he added.

Now NASA plans above all to resume shuttle service.

Yuri Semenov, chief of the Space Rocketry Corporation Energia, has said: "We are ready for long-duration missions. Our equipment is also ready and our American partners should make up their minds soon".

In early March Russia's Federal Space Agency sent to NASA an official proposal to prolong the term of stay of the ISS live-in crews. Since the American shuttles, bringing crews and cargoes to orbit, have suspended service Russia is bearing the ISS-servicing load.

As a results, the Federal Space Agency has become rid of much of the additional funds arriving from flights of European astronauts and space tourists.

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