Space Station Crew Launches from Birthplace of Human Spacefligh

One week shy of the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev launched to the International Space Station at 6:18 p.m. EDT Monday (4:18 a.m. local time, April 5) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz rocket that lifted Garan, Borisenko and Samokutyaev into orbit was decorated with Yuri Gagarin's name. The mission lifted off from the same launch pad used April 12, 1961, when Gagarin became the first human to journey into space.

The crew is scheduled to dock its Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft to the station's Poisk port at 7:18 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6. The crew members will join Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Cady Coleman of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, who have been aboard the orbiting laboratory since December 2010.

During Expedition 27, the six-person crew will continue scientific research, perform station maintenance and welcome two visiting vehicles. In addition to space shuttle Endeavour's planned visit during the STS-134 mission, the Expedition 27 crew is expecting the arrival of the 42nd Russian Progress cargo ship near the end of April.

Kondratyev, Coleman and Nespoli are scheduled to depart the station May 16.

NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa are scheduled to join Garan, Borisenko and Samokutyaev aboard the station to complete the Expedition 28 crew. Their launch is set for May 30.


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