Happy in quarantine

28 May 2013

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian Soyuz commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano show they are ready for their launch to the International Space Station tonight.

As part of the Expedition 36/37 crew, they will spend five months on the Station. Luca’s Volare mission is Europe’s fifth long-duration flight to the orbital outpost, and the first for ESA astronaut’s new generation of astronauts selected in 2009. The mission is provided through an agreement with Italy’s ASI space agency.

This image was taken at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan after the last press conference held before the astronauts head to into space for six months on a Soyuz spacecraft at 20:31 GMT (22:31 CEST) tonight.

Reflected in the glass are the journalists and photographers. The astronauts are behind glass to protect them from unnecessary contact with possibly infected people. All travellers on a Soyuz spacecraft spend a week in quarantine to make sure they are fit and in good health for their mission.

Our immune systems are impaired in space and unwanted bacteria and viruses in the closed artificial atmosphere of the Station could quickly multiply and infect astronauts. The quarantine before flight is one of the last hurdles in a preparation lasting years.

Watch the launch

Live transmission of the launch from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan will start at 19:30 GMT (21:30 CEST) with liftoff at 20:31 (22:30 CEST). ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will provide running commentary.

Luca’s Soyuz will be taking the fast route to the International Space Station, arriving only six hours after liftoff. Live coverage of the docking will start at 02:00 GMT (04:00 CEST) on 29 May showing images from cameras on the spacecraft and the Station as well as from mission control in Russia.

Insomniacs or early birds can tune in at 03:35 GMT (05:35 CEST) to watch the hatch opening and the Station crew, Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin and Chris Cassidy, welcome the new arrivals.

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