I’m not much of a travel person — and my status as a stay-at-home writer on a science blog does nothing to prove this — but I’d easily drive for two straight days if the International Space Station was my end destination. However, I would probably just run into water if I did that, since my car doesn’t go up. At least, not if I want to still qualify for the warranty.
But a two-day trip to the ISS might be a thing of the past, as the second half of the crew from Expedition 35 took a trip via the Russian Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft and docked with the ISS last night around 10:28 p.m. EDT. But here’s the amazing part: the shuttle only took off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:43 EDT, cutting the trip down to under six hours of travel and just four orbits of Earth, rather than over 50 hours and 30 orbits, as was typical. All it took were some “intricate ballistics maneuvers” to zip their way through space. And if the pizza wasn’t warm by the time they got there, ISS Commander Chris Hadfield didn’t have to pay full price.
Hadfield, NASA’s Tom Marshburn, and Roscosmos’ Roman Romanenko will be joined by Russian cosmonauts Pavel Viogradov and Alexander Misurkin, as well as NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy for the next three months doing “experiments in human research, physical and biological sciences, technology development, Earth observation and education.” The three former astronauts will then head back to Earth to make way for a new half-crew.
Cassidy, who’d already taken a trip to the shuttle in 2009, was anxious to get back, having this to say:
You know when you move into a new house and you don’t know where the forks and the silverware go, and you open the glass door all the time when you want to get a plate and you don’t know where the cereal goes? All that is how I felt on the shuttle when I was up there on the space station. I never really knew where stuff was, how to put things away, because there was always a space station crew member there to kind of get my back and say don’t worry about it. You’re so busy on the shuttle, you never really settle in and make it feel like a home. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, knowing that place inside and out, feeling like if you came up and visited us I could go in a hurry and get whatever you needed to make you feel comfortable, just knowing how the whole place works intimately. And having more time to look out the window and see the Earth go by. Both of those two things are what I’m anxious to get back into.
The manned mission wasn’t the first to take the shortened route, as it was tested three times by Russian Progress cargo ships, which are essentially unmanned Soyuz vessels used for transporting supplies. At least…they were unmanned when they left. But now I keep hearing this knocking…