BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan – A Russian Soyuz craft lit up the starry skies of the southern Kazakh steppe early today as it blasted off to carry a three-man crew for a mission to the International Space Station that will take in the U.S. shuttle’s farewell voyage.
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, NASA’s Michael Fossum and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan’s JAXA space agency will spend almost two days squeezed into the cramped Soyuz capsule before docking with the space station, where they will remain until mid-November.
By being present on the space station as the shuttle performs its final voyage, Fossum and fellow NASA astronaut Ron Garan will play leading roles in the closing act of the program.
“They’re going to be very proud to be part of the last shuttle dock mission. It’s obviously going to be a sad time for all of us to see the end of the program,” said NASA colleague Jeff Williams, who accompanied Fossum’s family during their stay in Baikonur.
Upon docking at the station, the crew will join the current station members – Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyayev.