Sun, Apr 09, 2006
Three Touch Down Sunday Morning
The Soyuz TMA-7 capsule carrying astronaut Bill McArthur,
cosmonaut Valery Tokalev and Brazilian astronaut Marco Pontes
undocked from the International Space Station, and touched down in
central Kazakhstan at 7:48 EDT Saturday evening.
As members of the Expedition 12 crew, McArthur and Tokarev spent
six months onboard the ISS. Pontes arrived at the station on April
1, along with Expedition 13 crewmembers Pavel Vinogradov and Jeff
Williams, for a weeklong visit to the station.
Commander Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Williams are now the
sole residents aboard the ISS. They are scheduled for a six-month
stay, until October. a third crewmember, European Space Agency
astronaut Thomas Reiter, is scheduled to join Expedition 13 no
earlier than July aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Once Reiter arrives at the ISS, the station will have a
three-man crew for the first time since May 2003. Assuming that
regular shuttle flights resume on schedule, construction on the
station is also scheduled to resume by the end of the year.
NASA is committed to 15 international partners to finish
assembly on the ISS. NASA's current space strategy calls for that
mission to be completed by 2010, at which time the shuttle is due
for retirement and NASA's focus will shift to unmanned space
exploration programs, as well as the manned Crew Exploration
Vehicle that is expected to carry astronauts back to the moon by
Seventeen missions are planned before the shuttle is retired in
2010 -- 16 for assembly of the International Space Station, and one
for servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.
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