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Soyuz Lands Safely After Mission To Space Station With Tourist

By | October 2, 2006

      The Soyuz spacecraft that launched Sept. 18 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan, according to NASA.

      That brought to an end a mission carrying a woman space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, who flew to the International Space Station (ISS) with the Expedition 14 crew and spent eight days there. She reportedly paid about $20 million for the trip.

      The American businesswoman went to the station under a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency. She earlier provided a $10 million prize for a private craft going into space.

      It was the eighth Soyuz family mission in 2006, and the 1,713th Soyuz mission, according to NASA and Starsem.

      The Soyuz spacecraft also brought back to Earth crew members from the space station, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and NASA station science officer Jeff Williams. They landed in their Soyuz TMA 8 spacecraft about 50 miles northeast of Arkalyk. Russian recovery forces and NASA officials arrived at the site shortly after the spacecraft touched down.

      The crew will spend several weeks in Star City, near Moscow, for debriefing and medical examinations.

      The Soyuz visit to the space station came amidst a flurry of activity at the artificial moon.

      In the past six months, the ISS has seen resumption of its construction by U.S. Space Shuttle spacewalkers with the attachment of a giant P3/P4 truss and solar array, a requisite advancement needed before later shuttle crews can attach European and Japanese laboratories to the ISS.

      During their mission, which launched March 29, Vinogradov and Williams were joined by Thomas Reiter, a European Space Agency astronaut from Germany. He became the first non- Russian, non-U.S. long-duration station crew member. He will remain aboard as part of the Expedition 14 crew until December when he returns to Earth on the next space shuttle flight.

      Two successful spacewalks were conducted by ISS crew members during Expedition 13. The first was by Vinogradov and Williams in Russian spacesuits and the second by Williams and Reiter in U.S. spacesuits.

      Vinogradov and Williams welcomed Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts and Reiter during the STS-121 mission to the station in July. In September Space Shuttle Atlantis’ crew on the STS-115 mission brought and installed the station’s integrated P3/P4 truss segments.

      Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria, Mikhail Tyurin and Reiter, now are on their own aboard the station after a week of handover, maintenance and some science activities.

      Vinogradov and Tyurin replaced a major component of the Elektron oxygen-producing device, which malfunctioned shortly after Atlantis departed. It was shut down after it experienced a chemical leak.

      The device was reactivated Sept. 16 and functioned for about three hours before shutting itself off. Further troubleshooting is planned.

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