With temperatures well below freezing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Tom Marshburn of NASA, Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency launched Dec. 19 to the International Space Station at 6:12 a.m., CST.
The trio will dock its Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft to the Rassvet module on the Russian segment of the space station at 8:12 a.m., Dec. 21. About three hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the orbiting laboratory will open. Marshburn, Romanenko and Hadfield will be greeted by space station Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin of Roscosmos, who have been in orbit since late-October.
NASA Television coverage of docking begins at 7:30 a.m., Dec. 21, and hatch opening coverage begins at 10:15 a.m.
Marshburn, Romanenko and Hadfield will remain aboard the station until May 2013. Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin will return to Earth on March 15, when Hadfield will become the first Canadian commander of the space station.
The focus of Expedition 34 is scientific research, with the astronauts serving as subjects for human physiology tests, including examinations of astronaut bone loss. The crew also is conducting a wide range of physical science, Earth observation, human research and technology demonstration investigations. Experiments will investigate how fire behaves in space, which could help improve engine fuel efficiency and fire suppression methods in space and on Earth. Other research will look at fluids that change physical properties in the presence of a magnet, which could improve bridge and building designs to better withstand earthquakes.
With the help of cameras set up by the crew, students on Earth are capturing photos of our planet.