BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, April 5 (Itar-Tass) - Russian spaceship Soyuz TMA-21 Gagarin carrying a crew of the next mission to the International Space Station lifted off from the Baikonur Space Center in central Kazakhstan at 02:18 Moscow Standard Time /22:18 GMT/ Tuesday.
Two Russian cosmonauts, Alexander Samokutyayev and Andrei Borisenko, and NASA astronaut Ronald Garan, are supposed to stay in orbit for five months.
Like their fellow-cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev, Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman, whose orbital mission began last December, the new crew is expected to conduct from space the special jubilee events dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the first manned flight to space.
The very name of the spaceship commemorates the Earth’s first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who made a 108-minutes-long orbital rotation around the globe aboard the Vostok ship April 12, 1961.
Alexander Samokutyayev is an active duty lieutenant colonel of the Russian Air Force. Ron Garan, 49, retired from the US Air Force in 2009. Andrei Borisenko is a highly experienced engineer working Energiya space corporation.
The trio now making a two-day journey to the ISS aboard the Soyuz Gagarin will face a long enough list of knotty jobs, including the docking and unloading of three Progress cargo spacecraft and joint activities with the crews of two last shuttle flights – the Endeavour that is due to blast off April 19 and the Atlantis, whose start into orbit has been scheduled for the last days of June.
The resident crew will also make a spacewalk to service the Russian segment of the ISS
In the course of that walk, a Radioskaf 2 Kedr space probe designed by Russian students will be launched.
Apart from this, Samokutyayev, Borisenko and Garan have an expansive research program embracing more than 40 experiments, some of them to be held in space for the first time.
The Soyuz Gagarin is due to dock to the ISS at 03:18 Moscow Standard Time April 7 /23:18 GMT April 6/, sources at the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos said.
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