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KOROLEV (Moscow region), November 16 (Itar-Tass) — The last analog-series Soyuz spacecraft at 09:24 on Wednesday docked to the International Space Station (ISS) in an automatic mode, the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow told Itar-Tass.
The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft that was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome on November 14, has brought in orbit the crew of the next long-term expedition to the ISS - Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank. They are to work in orbit for slightly more than four months. After the arrival of the Russian-American trio the ISS Expedition 29 crew increased to six people. The newcomers joined the working in orbit Russian Sergei Volkov, American Michael Fossum and Japanese Satoshi Furukawa.
Specialists of the MCC and guests and relatives of the cosmonauts that came to Korolev met the successful docking with applause. According to the MCC, the cosmonauts were to open the hatches and enter the station at 11:55 MSK.
Together with the astronauts the “space bio tourists” - the larvae of Drosophila flies arrived at the station. Adult flies will hatch from them in orbit that on November 22 Volkov will return to Earth on board the Soyuz spaceship. According to the experiment’s head Olga Larina, its main goal is “to understand how space flight conditions affect the intensity of mutation process in Drosophila.” The object for research was chosen not accidentally: the system of repair of genes in flies has much in common with the human. The number of structural genes in humans, explained Larina, is only two time more than in the flies, the flies also breed very quickly, which allows get a large amount of material to work with in just two to three weeks. Having studied the peculiarities of mutagenesis in the space flight conditions on the example of animal models, researchers in the future will be able to apply this information for the development of methods to reduce the risk of the damage of integrity of the astronauts’ genome during long interplanetary flights.
The new crew also has an important mission - to launch into space the Chibis-M research microsatellite that was delivered to orbit two weeks ago on board the cargo ship Progress M-13M. Instead of the docking unit, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin will install on the cargo spacecraft, after it completes its work with the ISS, the satellite after which the ship will be undocked from the station and its orbit will be raised up to 480-500 km. Then the satellite will be jettisoned with the help of a special launcher barrel and transferred to an autonomous flight mode. Chibis-M will for the first time allow scientists to conduct research in the field of atmospheric lightning discharges in a wide range of energies (from radio to gamma-radiation), magnetic wave phenomena, as well as implement educational programs for students and schoolchildren.
In addition, the crew is to receive and unload two Russian Progress cargo ships. The crew’s work plan also includes extravehicular activity in the interests of the Russian segment, during which astronauts will have to move a cargo boom from one module to another and set on the outer surface of the station additional meteor protecting shields. Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko, who will arrive at the ISS in late December, will conduct a spacewalk.
In addition, the astronauts are to conduct a research program, the Russian part of which alone consists of 37 experiments, some of which will be conducted for the first time.
Thus, the Russians are to breed new strains on “space” bacteria in orbit. Shkaplerov and Ivanishin have brought to the ISS a new bioreactor and the inoculum for the Cascade experiment. In these studies, the astronauts themselves act as biotechnologists: they inject the inoculums directly into the bioreactor in orbit (Volkov will do this on Wednesday). Earlier, this operation took place on Earth, and the biomaterial flew to the station for two days, which produced side effects and violated the purity of research, explained the experiment supervisor Tatyana Krasheninnikova. Experience gained on the ISS in the future will help to establish laboratory production of various cultures needed for long interplanetary flights and planetary stations.
In addition, the astronauts have brought into orbit a case with biological material for the Konstanta experiment that is aimed at identifying effects of space flight environment on the activity of a model enzymatic agent with respect to a specific zymolyte, as well as the Plasmid and Membrabe biotechnological experiments kits.
According to NASA, the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin docked to the International Space Station’s Poisk mini-research module at 12:24 a.m. EST Wednesday. The trio launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:14 p.m. EST Sunday (10:14 a.m. Monday, Kazakhstan time).
After the hatches between Soyuz and station were opened at 2:39 a.m., Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum of NASA and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov welcomed the new flight engineers aboard for their four-month stay on the orbiting complex.
The six station crew members will have a little less than a week together as the Expedition 29 crew before Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov head home Monday aboard the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft that brought them to the station June 9. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 30, under the command of Burbank. A formal change-of-command ceremony is planned for Sunday.
Three additional Expedition 30 flight engineers -- NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers -- are scheduled to launch to the station Dec. 21.
Burbank is making his third visit to the station. His previous two visits were both aboard space shuttle Atlantis. During the STS-106 mission in September 2000, he helped prepare the station for its first permanent crew. During STS-115 in September 2006, he conducted a 7-hour, 11-minute spacewalk that completed truss installation, activated the solar alpha rotary joint and enabled the solar arrays to be deployed. This is the first spaceflight for both Shkaplerov and Ivanishin.