And you think “your” holidays are stressful and filled with more hustle and bustle than usual? Well, instead of heading through the woods to Grandma’s house – imagine lifting off from Kazakhstan for the International Space Station, like NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands. That spacey trio launched to the International Space Station aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M craft at 7:16 am, Wednesday, December 21 from Kazakhstan.
Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are scheduled to dock to the Rassvet module of the station at 9:22 am today (Friday, Dec. 23). They will receive a holiday welcome from station Commander Dan Burbank of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who have been aboard the orbital laboratory since mid-November.
Catch the video of the trio’s launch into space.
NASA Television will provide live docking coverage beginning at 8:45 a.m. Friday. Hatch opening and welcoming ceremonies will occur about three hours later.
Upon arrival, Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers will become members of Expedition 30, restoring the station’s crew complement to six. They will continue scientific research and christen a new era of commercial resupply services from the United States, greeting the first SpaceX Dragon spaceship in mid-February. A Russian spacewalk to continue external assembly and maintenance of the station also is planned during Expedition 30.
Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin are scheduled to return to Earth in March, and Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers will return home in May.
Check out the live video coverage via NASA TV streaming video here (schedule and downlink information also available).
Click Here to follow Twitter updates from Expedition 30 commander Burbank and flight engineer Pettit.
Merry Christmas to all the Astronauts out there!
(cover image: live shot of the International Space Station provided by NASA, Friday, 12/23/2011.)
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