Spaceflight Now: Expedition 1 Mission Report

Historic next step in human spaceflight comes Tuesday

Posted: October 29, 2000

The massive Soyuz rocket rolls into the fog Sunday on its way to the launch pad. The booster will carry the first international space station residents to the outpost. Photo: NASA
Nearly 17 years after President Ronald Reagan first proposed building an international space station, an American commander and two Russian cosmonauts are finally poised for blastoff to become the first full-time occupants of what has become a $60 billion project.

Station commander William Shepherd - a former Navy SEAL - Soyuz commander Yuri Gidzenko and flight engineer Sergei Krikalev, one of the world's most experienced spacemen, are scheduled for launch Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan.

Liftoff is targeted for 0753 GMT (2:53 a.m. EST). The ride to orbit aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket will take eight minutes and 50 seconds. If all goes well, Gidzenko will oversee an automatic docking with the international space station at 4:27 a.m. Nov. 2.

"The very first thing we're [going to] do is turn the lights on," said Shepherd. "It's kind of like getting into your house. The first day, we have a backup computer panel that we're going to fire up and make sure we can talk to the computer. Then we're going to go around the house and turn the utilities on.

"We're going to want to get at the fresh water, be able to heat it and make food; turn the toilet on - it's got some assembly that goes with it - configure some radios. And if we get all that done the first day, we'll count it as a success."

Shepherd and company, known as Expedition One, plan to spend three-and-a-half months aboard the space station before being relieved next February.

Along with activating and checking out critical station systems, Shepherd's crew will unload a Russian Progress supply ship in mid November and then monitor installation of a huge set of solar arrays during a shuttle flight in December.

They also will help activate the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny, after it is attached by a shuttle crew in late January. Another shuttle flight in February will deliver still more supplies, along with the station's second crew: Commander Yuri Usachev, Susan Helms and James Voss.

The Expedition One crew: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev. Photo: NASA
Barring emergencies or major malfunctions, NASA plans to keep the station staffed with rotating crews of astronaut researchers for at least the next 10 to 15 years and possibly longer.

"You've got basically the world involved in this program," said station flight director John Curry. "There's a decent chance Oct. 31 will be the last day we don't have humans in space."

Launch of the first full-time crew is a major milestone in the tortured history of the international space station, one that has served to refocus attention on one of the most complex - and costly - engineering projects in human history.

"Those of us who are working on the program right now feel as though we're riding on a roller coaster that has crested the top of the first hill and has begun to accelerate down the backside," said James Van Laak, a senior station manager at the Johnson Space Center.

"The challenge we face over the next year in particular and the next several years is something that we are in awe of but prepared to execute."

Said astronaut William McArthur, who helped outfit the station in mid October: "I think it's a tremendous milestone. It's almost like when you been preparing for a big race and then finally everyone has been working hard getting to the starting line and the starter's gun goes off and we finally get to the business at hand.

"Both functionally, from the accomplishments we'll start seeing coming from the space station, and also psychologically, it's just a tremendous event."

But the space station Shepherd and his crewmates will move into is a far cry from the sprawling outpost NASA envisions when assembly is complete in April 2006.

  Completed ISS
An artist's concept of the space station when completed. Photo: NASA
The finished product will feature more than 15 U.S., Russian, Japanese, European and Italian modules with a total pressurized volume comparable to that of two Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

But the station as it currently exists consists of just three modules: The Russian Zvezda command module, a Russian-built NASA-financed propulsion module called Zarya; and NASA's Unity module, a multihatch node that will serve as a gateway to future components.

To make matters worse, or at least more cramped, the Unity module will be off limits for the first month of the Expedition One crew's stay because of temporary power and temperature constraints.

Even though the accommodations are limited, "it's just beautiful in there," said shuttle pilot and recent station visitor Pamela Melroy. "Everything is new and clean and shiny. We were very impressed and we think Shep and his crew are going to love it."

Continue to Part 2

At a Glance
Mission 1: ISS-2R
Vehicle: Soyuz
Crew: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev
Launch date: Oct. 31, 2000
Launch time: 0753 GMT (2:53 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Return vehicle: Shuttle Discovery (STS-102)
Landing date: March 11, 2001
Landing site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Mission 2: ISS-4A (STS-97)
Vehicle: Shuttle Endeavour
Crew: Jett, Bloomfield, Tanner, Garneau, Noriega
Launch date: Nov. 30, 2000
Launch time: 10:06 p.m. EST (0306 GMT on 1st)
Launch site: LC-39B, KSC
Landing date: Dec. 11, 2000
Landing time: 6:04 p.m. EST (2304 GMT)
Landing site: SLF, KSC

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