NASA and its International Partners have assigned new crews to fly to the International Space Station this year. As Expedition 9, NASA astronaut Edward Michael "Mike" Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka will be the next crew to live aboard the complex. NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan S. Sharipov will serve as Expedition 10.
Fincke and Padalka are set for launch April 18 on a six-month mission. Padalka will serve as Expedition 9 commander and Soyuz commander, and Fincke will be the NASA Space Station science officer and flight engineer. They have been training together as a Space Station crew since March 2002.
Chiao and Sharipov will serve as backup for Expedition 9 and as the prime crew for Expedition 10. They're scheduled to launch to the Space Station in October. Chiao will serve as the expedition commander and NASA science officer, and Sharipov will serve as Soyuz commander and flight engineer. Astronaut William S. McArthur Jr. and cosmonaut Valery I. Tokarev will serve as the Expedition 10 backup crew.
Russia proposed the new assignment to International Space Station partners through the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel (MCOP). The MCOP agreed to the exchange this week. The decision is still subject to internal review by each partner agency, and NASA anticipates that process to be completed soon.
In November 2003, McArthur and cosmonaut Tokarev were named as Expedition 9 commander and flight engineer.
In mid-January, astronaut Chiao was named as the Expedition 9 commander due to a temporary medical issue related to McArthur's qualification for that long-duration flight.
Following Chiao's assignment to fly with Tokarev, NASA and its partners continued to evaluate available crew resources for upcoming flights and decided it was optimal to keep teams together. Since Fincke and Padalka had trained together for years, as had Chiao and Sharipov, the partners made the decision to modify the crew assignments.
"As we've continued to evaluate the best use of crew training and resources, we altered our plans to accommodate a change in the Expedition 9 and 10 crews," Chief Astronaut Kent Rominger said. "Fortunately, the partnership has a pool of highly qualified crew members available, which gives us the flexibility to deal with unexpected circumstances. After a very thorough evaluation by our partners, I'm confident that these assignments make the very best use of our crew resources and skills and will ensure the flights' full success."
European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers will also launch aboard the Soyuz with Fincke and Padalka in April. Kuipers will spend about a week aboard the Station conducting scientific experiments under a commercial agreement between the European Space Agency and Russia. Kuipers will return to Earth with Expedition 8 crewmembers Mike Foale and Alexander Kaleri.
Fincke, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, is a native of Emsworth, Pa. He will be making his first space flight. Fincke has trained as a backup Station crewmember for two previous missions, Expeditions 4 and 5.
Padalka also has trained as a backup Station crewmember with Fincke for Expedition 4. Padalka will be making his second space flight, having completed 198 days aboard the Russian Mir Space Station in February 1999.
Biographies of Chiao and Sharipov can be found online at:
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