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27 Sep, 2009 09:36

Ready for take-off

The 21st expedition to the International Space Station is set to blast off in just four days and the final preparations are underway.

With the crew having trained relentlessly for the last few months, it is now up to the technical team to make sure the equipment is ready for action.

In the main hangar, the separate parts of the Soyuz rocket are being put together. The carrier will be ready by Monday morning.

Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, joins the mission as the eighth space tourist.

The crew is already at the Baikonuk cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, making final checks to the ship and luggage of which they are only allowed three kilograms per person.

It has become traditional for cosmonauts over the past few space flights to bring toys with them to orbit. The ship’s commander, Maksim Suraev , will be bringing a toy lion with him to remind him of his family. Future space clown, Guy Laliberté, has already packed a bagful of red clown noses for all the crew of the ISS.

But it isn’t all fun and games. In his 10 days on orbit, Laliberté will organize a major worldwide event to raise awareness of the drinking water shortage problem in many corners of the world.

He will then leave orbit with the previous ISS crew. Suraev and flight engineer, Jeffrey Williams, will stay on the space station for six months, conducting scientific research.