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6 Apr, 2008 00:30

Countdown to blast-off: Soyuz undergoes final checks

The 17th mission to the International Space Station is just days away, with lift-off scheduled for Tuesday. Technicians at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are meticulously checking the spacecraft before the journey.

During these latter stages of preparation the rocket resembles a huge and very expensive jigsaw puzzle, not the billion-dollar craft that will launch the crew into orbit.

It is a process that can’t be hurried. The most painstaking part of the assembly process is the emergency module, used in the event of an emergency during the launch. It requires calm and maximum concentration.

The technicians are swarming round the three-tonne emergency module checking every nut and bolt, each of which must be precision perfect. The operation requires maximum concentration. Care now could save the cosmonauts’ lives later.

This final part of the assembly process is pretty swift and then it will set off on its penultimate journey.

“It will go on the train and then be put on the platform and then taken to the launchpad,” explained Gennady Dementyev, deputy chief of launch testing.

There it will be put through its paces for the final time before the official launch on April 8.