ISS now ready for six astronauts

May 7th, 2009 - 6:35 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 7 (DPA) After more than 10 years of construction, the International Space Station is ready to double its crew to six astronauts from around the world in what will be its most international crew ever, the US space agency said Wednesday.
The equipment and supplies have been checked to ensure that there is enough space for three more permanent residents aboard ISS, NASA officials said at a press briefing.

On May 27, a Russian Soyuz craft will carry three more astronauts to the station. But unlike in the past, they will not be replacing those currently on board, instead they will join three astronauts already there to double the size of the crew.

It will be the first time all five of the partner space agencies - from the US, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada - will have crew members living on ISS together at the same time.

Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk and European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium will join current ISS residents Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, Michael Barratt of the US and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. Americans Timothy Kopra and Nicole Stott will replace other

crew members later in the expedition.

“It’s the most international crew we’ve ever had,” said Courtenay McMillan, who is managing Expedition 20, which begins with the arrival of the six-member crew.

The expansion will allow crew members to triple the amount of time they devote to science experiments on board.

The biggest challenge in expanding the station is providing food to so many more people, Dan Hartman, NASA’s manager of integration and operations, explained.

Several loads of food will be rocketed to the station on unmanned crafts to add to deliveries from NASA’s space shuttle. In September for the first time, the Japanese cargo delivery H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) will bring supplies to the station.

Even if space shuttle flights must be postponed or there are other problems, food supplies are sufficient to last beyond late October, Hartman said.

The crew will also for the first time drink water recycled through a machine designed to turn sweat and urine into drinkable water.

Two Russian spacewalks are scheduled for the crew during June.

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