First woman space tourist on her way to the ISS

Russian Soyuz TMA-9 rocket
Successful launch
18 September 2006

At 06:10 CEST this morning a Soyuz TMA-9 successfully lifted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. On board the flight to the International Space Station are Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and the first woman space tourist, Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari.

The Soyuz spacecraft is now in target orbit at an altitude of over 200 km and is expected to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, 20 September at 07:28 CEST . “All the space vehicle’s systems have been functioning smoothly,” said Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin.

During her 10-day stay on the ISS, 40-year-old Ms Ansari, who is now a US citizen, will conduct four experiments for ESA.

The four ESA experiments are:

  • Chromosome-2, to investigate the effects of space radiation on crew members
  • SAMPLE, to examine the effects of bacteria on the health of space crews and the technical equipment on board
  • NEOCYTOLYSIS, and experiment to study the effects of weightlessness on the hemopoietic system the system responsible for the formation of blood cells in the body
  • the Low-Back Pain experiment, to improve understanding of the correlation between muscle use/disuse and back pain, and aid in developoing countermeasures to assist astronauts and also sufferers on Earth.

The ESA experiments form part of the European Experiment Programme being carried out on the ISS. They cover a large range of scientific disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, physiology, psychology and other related topics. Many of the experiments require a high number of observations that need to be carried out in various sessions on as many people as possible. This is why all those staying on the ISS, including short-stay visitors such as Ms Ansari, are asked to help out.

To prepare for the arrival of the new crew members and make way for the Soyuz capsule, the Atlantis shuttle undocked from the ISS on Sunday. Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin join ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, who has been on board the ISS since his arrival in July on the space shuttle Discovery. Reiter is the first non-Russian non-US astronaut to be a permanent ISS crew member and he will remain on the ISS until December.

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