STAR CITY /Moscow region/, November 6. /TASS/. Prime and backup crew members of the next expedition to the International Space Station have successfully passed their final qualification exams and will leave for Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome on November 11 to continue preparations for the flight.
A lovable snowman named Olaf, made of plush, from last year's hit Disney animated movie Frozen will be the official mascot of the upcoming expedition, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov said on Thursday during a news conference at the Russian Space Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow.
Expedition 42/43 Soyuz Commander Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) together with Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency are the next crew scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station from Baikonur cosmodrome on a Russian made Soyuz TMA-15M on November 24.
The backups to the prime crew are Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
During a five and a half month mission on the International Space Station, the crew will perform hundreds of scientific experiments, among other things, to study the effects of microgravity on various processes, Shkaplerov said.
There are also plans to conduct several spacewalks under the US programme, aimed primarily at preparing the station's US segment to dock new US spaceships, he said.
Around 150 experiments will be carried out in the US segment, including in the fields of astronomy and materials science, said Terry Virts, noting plans to use ultrasonic equipment for research of brain and eyes.
Samantha Cristoforetti said she was most interested in experiments of the Italian Space Agency, for example, studying the effect of weightlessness on the quality of sleep and blood circulation.
Cristoforetti is the only one of the three prime crew members who has never been in space before. As for the backup crew, besides Oleg Kononenko, who has already worked twice in the open space, both the US and the Japanese astronauts will fly for the first time.