Spaceflight Now STS-100

Space tourist Tito checks in at the 'Hotel Alpha'

Posted: April 30, 2001 at 4:45 a.m. EDT; Updated: 6:03 a.m. EDT

  Tito aboard
Tito flies into the Zvezda service module with some help from his crewmates. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
Millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito checked into the international space station today, grinning like a schoolboy as he floated inside, exclaiming "I love space!" and looking none the worse for two days cooped up in a cramped Soyuz capsule.

"I don't know about this adaptation they talk about," he said, referring to the space sickness that affects about half the men and women who fly in space. "I've already adapted. So I love space!"

He'd better. He's spending $2.5 million a day for the experience.

Tito and his crewmates, along with the station's full-time crew - commander Yuri Usachev, James Voss and Susan Helms - then posed together, smiling and waving at Russian ground controllers through a grainy TV link.

"It is really nice to see you in good mood," Russian mission control radioed.

"Thank you. And you see Denny, he looks younger, maybe 10 years younger now," said Soyuz commander Talgat Musabayev, clapping Tito on the back. "Maybe going to space makes you younger."

The three-seat Soyuz TM-32 capsule made an automated approach to the station, using its KURS radar system to lock onto a docking target at the Zarya module's Earth-facing port.

Black-and-white television shots of the station from a camera mounted on the hull of the Soyuz showed the lab complex floating against Earth's limb as Musabayev and company slowly moved in for a docking at 3:58 a.m. Later, the station crew downlinked color video showing the docking from the space station's perspective.

  Tito aboard
A beaming Tito gives a thumbs up soon after arriving at his vacation spot for the next six days. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
After a series of leak checks, hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at 5:28 a.m. and Musabayev, Yuri Baturin and Tito floated into the space station for the first time.

Video from inside the station's service module showed Uschev and Voss hugging Musabayev as he floated in, followed by Tito and Baturin. Tito could be seen grinning broadly as he floated in the roomy module.

"We're so glad (they are) finally here so we have guests in our house," said Usachev. "They're in good shape and we're really hopeful that our cooperation will be fruitful."

"Greetings from Kristall to the ISS crew, to Yuri, Jim and Susan," Musabayev said. "They even helped us to open the hatch. It was a little bit stuck and we were not able to open it without their help. But together, we did it."

"That's very good, guys," Russian ground control responded.

"The most important thing is we made it," replied Musabayev.

Usachev and his crewmates were launched aboard a space shuttle on March 8. Today is their 53rd day in space, their 51st aboard the lab complex.

They will spend a fair amount of time today giving Tito and his crewmates a thorough safety briefing.

Engineers in Houston, meanwhile, have been pressing ahead with work to restore the station's computer system to full functionality after a series of crippling failures last week that knocked all three of its central command-and-control computers out of action.

  Soyuz approach
The window of the Destiny lab offered a spectacular view of the final approach of the Soyuz carrying Dennis Tito and two crewmates. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
After extensive troubleshooting, engineers successfully recovered C&C-2, along with its internal hard drive, on Thursday. C&C-3 suffered an outright hard drive failure, but critical control software was reloaded directly into its DRAM memory and the computer was switched into backup mode.

C&C-1 was replaced with an identical computer used to control experiments. The new computer's DRAM was loaded with the necessary software, but its hard drive initially failed to reformat, preventing controllers from loading critical software onto the disk.

Early today, flight controllers told the astronauts they had finally succeeded in reformatting the disk, giving the station three operational command-and-control computers and two operational hard drives.

"That is great news about C&C-1," Helms radioed. "You guys do great work."

After diagnostic tests are complete, C&C-1 will be switched to backup mode and C&C-3 will be switched into standby mode, ready to take over if both of the other machines fail.

The station can operate with just one C&C computer and one operational hard drive. But flight controllers want at least one fully operational backup machine while troubleshooters on the ground continue searching for the cause of the original failures last week.

The hard drives are crucial because they store robot arm control software and programs for other systems, including the station's Ku-band communications links with Earth and the command displays used by laptop computers that control various aspects of station operation.

  Soyuz docked
A camera on the newly installed station robot arm captures a view of the newly arrived Soyuz. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
With the computer system now revived, engineers are pressing ahead with work to recover use of the Ku-band communications link. It appears the system will be back up and running ahead of earlier predictions. The purpose of the Soyuz flight is to deliver a fresh lifeboat to the station for use in an emergency that might force the Expedition Two crew to bail out.

Musabayev and his crewmates will return to Earth next weekend aboard the station's original Soyuz, which is nearing the end of its six-month orbital lifetime.

Tito reportedly paid the Russian Space Agency $20 million to become the first space tourist, or $2.5 million per day for an eight-day voyage.

NASA, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan objected to his presence on the crew, arguing he was not properly trained, posed a potential safety threat and would distract the Expedition Two crew during a busy period in space station assembly.

The Russians claim Tito is, in fact, properly trained for emergencies and they made it clear all along they planned to launch the U.S. businessman whether NASA and its other partners like it or not.

Four days before launch, NASA gave its official-if-reluctant blessings when Tito signed an agreement accepting financial responsibility for anything he might break while aboard the lab complex. The agreement also requires a station crew member to escort him at all times when inside the U.S. section of the outpost.

While Tito received extensive training on Russian systems, he never participated in training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to familiarize him with systems in the American modules.

Tito's arrival at the station followed the departure of the shuttle Endeavour and its seven crew members on Sunday. The shuttle astronauts are scheduled to land Tuesday.

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The Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft carrying U.S. space tourist Dennis Tito docks with the International Space Station.
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