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25 May, 2010 08:17

24th ISS expedition passes decisive tests in Star City

Russia's Star City, the country's center for training future cosmonauts, is putting a new batch of students through their paces. If they pass, the graduates will be sent to the International Space Station.

Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker are preparing to be the main crew of the 24th expedition to the International Space Station. They have passed several types of preparations and tests over the last months both in Russia and the US. Today they pass their final exam concerning the Russian segment of the ISS. They will work a whole day in an exact duplicate of that part of the station, showing their knowledge of the equipment, how they can work together and – most importantly – how they can solve various problems and malfunctions that may arise during their stint onboard the ISS.

Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin is probably the most experienced one of the crew, having spent 207 days in space over the course of two missions. On three occasions, totaling 18 hours and 44 minutes, he has ventured into open space. He also was the commander of the 15th expedition to the ISS when space tourist Charles Simonyi was a member of the crew. The 24th will be his third flight.

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock has already visited the ISS on a space shuttle, while it is going to be the first flight for Shannon Walker. Walker lived in Russia for around a year and Wheelock is one of NASA’s main representatives to the Russian Space Agency. As such, it is unlikely that the three will have any communication problems during either the tests or the flight itself.

The Soyuz spacecraft is scheduled to take off on June 15 from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 24th expedition is planned to spend about half a year on the orbiting lab. They will be visited by at least one American space shuttle and several Russian Progress cargo ships.

The members of the expedition will train up until the last day before launch.