Soyuz TMA-8 launches

by Chris Bergin

Expedition 13 have blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at dawn on Thursday (9:30pm Eastern, Wednesday) – on course to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA’s Jeffrey Williams, Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and Brazilian Marcos Pontes are en-route for a one and a half day pursuit of the ISS, where they will dock their Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft before boarding on Friday. (Read on for links – plus full launch video replay of the launch).

Soyuz TMA-8 : LIVE


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The Expedition 13 crew of Williams and commander Vinogradov are rotating residency on the ISS with Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and NASA astronaut William McArthur.

This will be the first mission that NASA has paid for a seat on the Soyuz for one of their astronauts. Reports vary on the amount of cash that has changed hands, although it is understood to be at least $20m.


Preparations continued on board for the Expedition 12 crew’s return to Earth on April 8. 
McArthur and Tokarev worked on the Russian Kentavr (Centaur) garments, doing fit-checks and adjusting them for their individual sizes. The suits are kept in the Habitation Module of the Soyuz TMA, until undock day.
McArthur and Tokarev have also been in communication with entry and landing specialists at TsUP/Moscow via VHF to discuss preparations and procedures for their return with Pontes to Earth. 
Information acquired this evening noted that ‘During descent, Tokarev, as Soyuz CDR, will occupy the middle couch, with Pontes in the right seat and McArthur in the Descent Module’s left Kazbek couch. 

‘Pending the final State Commission decision at about 3.5h before undocking, 11S return is scheduled for 4/8 (Saturday), with undocking command at 4:28pm EDT and landing in the vicinity of Arkhalyk/Kazakhstan at 7:46pm EDT.
Both crewmembers again had an hour each to prepare for their departure on 4/8, as they continued equipment prepacking for return on Soyuz (Descent Module) or disposal (Habitation Module).

A full technical run down of preparations is available on L2

Pontes ready for his World Cup

Pontes will become Brazil’s first astronaut – and he’ll be taking the most iconic symbol of his nation with him into space.

In modern history, Brazil has the best national team in the world’s most popular sport, football (soccer). They go into World Cup Finals in Germany this year as favourites again, ahead of England.

Not that the World Champions will likely need it, Pontes will be taking a Brazil shirt with him to the ISS ‘to bring them luck’. Media reports claim that upon its arrival back on Earth it will be presented to Real Madrid’s $100m star striker Ronaldo.

‘To commemorate the six times champions of the world that the Brazilian football team will become this year, I’m taking the Brazilian soccer team shirt,’ he said. ‘About being the first Brazilian: it’s a very good feeling but a great responsibility also.’

Pontes’ chance to travel into space has been a long road, having seen his initial shot of riding on the Space Shuttle in 2001 scuppered, before being cancelled due to the loss of Columbia in 2003.

‘I want to thank the Brazilian Air Force, who taught me how to pursue an objective. If someone gives you a mission, you go until the end, independently of problems that you have.

‘Persistence is the word I’d like people to remember.’

Related story: Williams notes Soyuz’s importance


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