BAIKONUR/Kazakhstan/, March 27. /TASS/. The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is preparing to launch crew to the International Space Station from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at 19:42 GMT on Friday, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has said.
Gennady Padalka, 56, a veteran Russian cosmonaut, will serve as commander of the spacecraft. He is the most experienced of the crew as he has spent 710 days in space and participated in nine spacewalks.
This will be his fifth voyage into space. During this six-month long stay on the space station, Padalka is expected to break the record of Russia’s Sergey Krikalev, who has spent 803 days in space.
His colleagues - cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly - are due to join NASA's Terry Virts, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti when they reach the station on Saturday.
Padalka will return back to Earth this fall while Korniyenko and Kelly are to spend an entire year aboard the ISS. The mission prepares to carry out a rich scientific program that will include many joint experiments.
Kelly will have a special role in the current mission as by his example the researchers plan to study the negative influence of a space flight on the human genes.
His twin brother Mark, a retired astronaut, will help control the changes while on Earth.
Scientists believe that the data received during this flight will help the humanity make another step closer to long space journeys.
For NASA, this will be the first experience of a year-long space expedition.
The spacecraft is due to dock with the ISS at 01:36 GMT on March 28.