Honoring 50 Years of Human Space Flight: Introducing The Expedition 28 Mission Patch

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It is great honor to introduce the newly approved Expedition 28 mission patch.  Our patch has a very special significance to us because through the design we are able to celebrate 50 years of human spaceflight.

Expedition 28 Mission Patch

In the foreground of the patch, the International Space Station is prominently displayed to acknowledge the efforts of the entire International Space Station (ISS) team – both the crews who have assembled and operated it, and the team of scientists, engineers, and support personnel on Earth who have provided a foundation for each successful mission.  Their efforts and accomplishments have demonstrated the Space Station’s capabilities as a technology test bed and a science laboratory, as well as a path to the human exploration of our solar system and beyond.  This Expedition 28 patch represents the teamwork among the international partners – USA, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the ESA – and the ongoing commitment from each partner to build, improve, and utilize the ISS. 

Prominently displayed in the background is our home planet, Earth – the focus of much of our exploration and research on our outpost in space.  Also prominently displayed in the background is the Moon. The Moon is included in the design to stress the importance of our planet’s closest neighbor to the future of our world. Expedition 28 is scheduled to occur during the timeframe of the 50th anniversary of both the first human in space, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the first American in space, astronaut, Alan Shepard.  To acknowledge the significant milestone of 50 years of human spaceflight, the names “Гагарин” and “Shepard” as well as “50 Years” are included in the patch design.

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Pre-Flight Preparation & Tradition: On the Road to Baikonur

This entry was originally posted on September 24, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on www.FragileOasis.com

The Backup Crew for Expedition 25 Reports to the Commission prior to beginning flight readiness exams (photo: RSA)

Last week was an interesting week to say the least. The week started off with final flight readiness exams for the primary and backup crews of Expedition 25. On the first day, the primary crew of Scott Kelly, Alexander Kaleri, and Oleg Skripochka had a full day-long exam in a training facility that mimics the Russian section of the Space Station while the backup crew of Sergei Volkov, Oleg Kononenko and myself had a day–long exam in the Soyuz simulator. The next day, both crews switched places and took the other exam.  Each exam involved

Soyuz Backup Commander Sergey Volkov signs the envelop selected to determine the malfunctions (photo: RSA)
routine operations that we will have to perform while on-board the Soyuz and Space Station as well as malfunctions and emergencies that we could possibly face.

The examinations themselves are steeped in tradition. After dressing in our Sokol spacesuits, we marched out in front of an army of press and media and reported to the commission.  The commander of the mission then picked one of five envelopes. Each envelope contained a series of malfunctions that if picked, we would experience during the simulation. After the envelope is picked, each of the crewmembers then signs the outside of the envelope. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to open the envelope and

Expedition 25 Backup Crew answering media questions prior to starting the final flight readiness simulations (photo: RSA)

look inside. We would find out what was in there soon enough.  After each exam, we faced a panel of specialists, managers, and senior cosmonauts to explain our actions and answer their questions. Both crews, on both exams, scored the highest grade and were recommended: “Ready for Flight”.

After the exams were all over we had a wonderful party at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center with the crews, cosmonauts and our instructors. There was a great feeling of accomplishment. It was great to be able to share this celebration with those wonderful training professionals who make many sacrifices and work very hard to ensure that crews are ready for flight. It doesn’t matter what country you are in, the pride that people who work in the space program have in their chosen profession shines through in all that they do. It is really humbling to be a part of this special endeavour of humanity.

Being Congratulated by Sergey Krikalev after the State Commission. (Photo: RSA)

Later in the week, we went before the “State Commission”.  The State Commission was headed  by Sergey Krikalev.  Sergey,  besides being  the Chief of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center has spent more time in space than anyone in history (803 days 9 hours and 39 minutes). At the commission, all our training for the mission was

Oleg Kononenko receives an award from Sergey Krikalev during a post State Commission Press conference. (Photo: RSA)

reviewed, each of us said a few words, and then we were certified “Ready for Flight”. Following the State Commission we conducted a press conference with Russian and European media (which was also covered by NASA TV).

The period before leaving for the Baikonur Cosmodrome is filled with a great deal of wonderful traditions.  On Friday, after the press conference we visited the Cosmonaut Museum here in Star City. Before touring through the great historical displays, each crew sat at Yuri Gagarin’s desk and signed the cosmonaut book. It was fun looking through the book and seeing the names and

The Backup crew of Expedition 25 signs the Cosmonaut Book while sitting at Yuri Gagarin’s desk at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City Russia (Photo: RSA)

well wishes of the crews that went before us. It was also a great experience to see Sergei find one of his Dad’s entries. (Sergei is one of two current 2nd generation cosmonauts). From Star City we headed down to Red Square where we each took turns laying flowers at the tombs of Yuri Gagarin and Sergei Korolev. What a great honor to be able to show our respect to the first human in space and to the Father of the Russian Space Program. In addition to paying respect to those great champions of human spaceflight that have gone before us, we also had some time for “photo-op’s” in front of the Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon inside the Kremlin and of course in front of  St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Inside the Cosmonaut Museum, Star City Russia (Photo: RSA)

After spending some time touring around Red Square we headed back to Star City where we shared a great dinner with our NASA colleagues in Star City and the newest class of European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts. The newest class of ESA astronauts are a great group of very talented and personable people. They are: Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy, Alexander Gerst from Germany, Andreas Mogensen from Denmark, Timothy Peake from England, and Thomas Pesquet from France.  Their sixth classmate, Luca Parmitano from Italy was not present because he is presently training in Houston.

Tomorrow the plan was for the prime and backup crews to attend the traditional pre-departure breakfast then board aircraft for the flight to Baikonur. Unfortunately, a malfunction on-board the Space Station is delaying the depature and landing of  the Soyuz 22S TMA-18 spacecraft in which Alexander Skvortsov, Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko were scheduled to land this morning in Kazakhstan. Because that landing is delayed, our departure from Star City is most likely delayed too.

In front of the Tsar Bell at the Kremlin in Moscow, Expedition 25 prime and backup crew members were joined by NASA officials and friends as they posed for pictures as part of ceremonial activities leading to the launch of the Expedition 25 crew in the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Oct. 8th (Photo: RSA)

Whenever we end up arriving in Baikonur, I’m really looking forward to seeing that place where so much space history was made and that continues to play a very important role in humanity’s exploration of space.

Russian pre-flight tradition: laying flowers at Yuri Gagarin and Sergei Korolev’s tombs (Photo: RSA)



Reporting from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the 53rd Anniversary of Sputnik, the 1st Object Launched into Space

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Expedition 25 Crew Conducts a Press Conference prior to boarding Aircraft Bound for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
53 years ago today humanity was forever changed when our first few steps to extend human presence beyond our world were made. It is an incredible experience to be in that place were the first object Sputnik, and the first human Yuri Gagarin were launched into space.  The Expedition 25 prime and backup crews have been in Kazakhstan for a little over a week in preparation for the October 8th Soyuz launch (Oct 7th in the US) from the Baikonur
Arrival in Baikonur Kazakhstan (Photo: Victor Zelentsov)
Our journey to Baikonur began on the 25th of September. That day started out with a going away ceremony at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.  After a series of toasts and wishes for a safe trip, the Expedition 25 Prime Crew had a brief press conference before we all boarded busses for our aircraft. In the “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket” mindset, the prime crew boarded one aircraft and the backup crew boarded another for the 3½ hour flight to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. 
Some of Our Welcoming Committee After Arrival in Baikonur
Flag Raising Ceremony, Baikonur Kazakhstan (Photo: Victor Zelentsov)
Baikonur is the once top secret launch facility where besides Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, many others have begun the trip to the cosmos since 1957.

Upon arrival in Baikonur each crew reported to Russian Space Agency Dignitaries and then traveled to the quarantine facility via a police escorted convoy (Continuing the “Not all the eggs in one basket” mindset by using different busses for the prime and backup crews). In addition to people greeting us along the way we were also welcomed by some of the local wildlife.

Except for 2 trips to the Soyuz assembly facility and an excursion to space monuments and a space museum all of our pre-launch time has been spent in the cosmonaut quarantine facility. In the facility we attend pre-mission briefings, review classes, exercise, watch movies and participate in traditions and ceremonies.

The Backup Expedition 25 Crew poses in front of the Soyuz Spacecraft Hatch at one of the visits to the Soyuz Assembly Building (Photo: Victor Zelentsov)
Participating in the traditions has been a great experience. Shortly after arriving in Baikonur, we had a Flag Raising Ceremony where the crews raised the flags of their native countries and the flag of Kazakhstan which signaled the start of the pre-launch countdown. The backup crew also had a tour of the city which included laying flowers on memorials to Yuri Gagarin and Sergey Korolev and visiting the spot where it was announced that Yuri Gagarin would be the first in space (and Gherman Titov would be his backup).
The Door that the Cosmonauts Exit on Their Way to the Launch Pad. Before Boarding the 2 Busses (1 for the Prime and 1 for the Backup Crews), the Cosmonauts & Astronauts Report to the Commission (See the Designated Spots Painted on the Asphalt)

On one of our two visits to the Soyuz assembly facility, to verify the cargo and equipment locations of the Soyuz spacecraft, we also were able to tour two small houses, not far from the launch pad, where Yuri Gagarin and Sergey Korolev stayed prior to the historic flight in 1961 and we were also able to see the Buran Spacecraft.

The Business End of the Soyuz Rocket (Photo: Victor Zelentsov)
What Quarantine Looks Like (Photo: Victor Zelentsov)
In a few days Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochka, and Scott Kelly will launch from the same pad that Yuri Gagarin launched from in 1961.  Six months from now, Alexander Samokutyayev, Andrei Borisenko and I will also launch from that same pad very close to the 50th Anniversary of the 1st Human Spaceflight. That will be a great honor to say the least.  It is a wonderful experience to be in a place that has so much history and it is humbling to realize that so many sacrificed so much to push humans beyond our Earth. I understand that I am very fortunate to be able to participate in this endeavor where today we continue the tradition of pushing the boundaries of exploration.