Three new crew members brought the Olympic torch to the International Space Station

Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and Richard Mastracchio with the Olympic torch (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin and Richard Mastracchio with the Olympic torch (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A few hours ago the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and after less than six hours reached the International Space Station carrying three new crew members. The Soyuz has used the fast trajectory successfully tested in recent past.

The three new members of the International Space Station crew, who complete the Expedition 38 crew, are three space mission veterans:

Koichi Wakata. Born on August 1, 1963 in Ōmiya, Saitama, Japan. He earned a bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering in 1987, a master of science in applied mechanics in 1989 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2004 from the University of Hyushu. Between 1989 and 1992 he worked as a structural engineer at Japan Airlines. In 1992 he was selected as an astronaut candidate by the then National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), which later became JAXA, the Japanese space agency. After a period of training, also at NASA, he was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in the STS-72 mission in 1996 and the Space Shuttle Discovery in the STS-92 mission in 2000 also working on the assembly of the International Space Station. In August 2006 he participated in a seven-day underwater expedition at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aquarius Laboratory  off the Florida coast. In 2009 he was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in the STS-119 mission but remained on the International Space Station as part of Expedition 18, 19 and 20 before returning to Earth on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in the STS-127 mission. He’s married and has a son.

Richard Mastracchio. Born on February 11, 1960 in Waterbury, Connecticut, USA, he earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Connecticut in 1982 and a master of science degree in electrical engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1987 and a master of science in physical sciences at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 1991. In 1990 he joined the NASA as an engineer, working mainly in the development of computer systems. In 1996 he was selected as an astronaut candidate. He was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in the STS-106 mission in 2000, of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in the STS-118 mission in 2007 and that of the Space Shuttle Discovery in the STS-131 mission in 2010.

Mikhail Tyurin. Born on March 2, 1960 in Kolomna, in the then USSR, has a degree in engineering with a specialization in creating mathematical models related to mechanical flight at the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1984. In 1994 he was selected to become a cosmonaut. He’s already been on the International Space Station as part of Expedition 3 in 2001 and as part of Expedition 14 between September 2006 and April 2007. He completed four spacewalks. He received the medal of the Hero of the Russian Federation. He’s married and has one daughter.

In addition to regular maintenance tasks of the International Space Station and the management and the arrival and departure of various spacecraft, these three new crew members have a special task: to bring to the station a version of the Olympic torch. In a few days, it will be brought back to Earth by the last members of the Expedition 37 to deliver it to the officials who are currently preparing the next Winter Games.

That’s why for once the arrival of new crew precedes the departure of those who are at the end of their mission. In general, the opposite occurs and for a few days the station is run by three people while now there are nine.

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