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7 Apr, 2008 23:16

Soyuz crew fit and ready to fly

The 17th mission to the International Space Station has received a final official blessing before it blasts off into the heavens. The rocket is now in position for take-off. Last-minute tests have been carried out and the crew have been placed in quaranti

Each of the crew, Flight Commander Sergey Volkov, Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko, and South Korea’s first person in space, Yi So-yeon, have had letters of support from relatives and friends. But they say they won’t open them before reaching the ISS.

They’ll also be taking with them mementoes from home, such as photos, letters and mascots.

The questions rolled at the final press conference, and the mood among the talkative cosmonauts was buoyant. The 50th woman to go into space was looking to the future and the moment when she docks at the ISS.

“I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a cosmonaut just like them!” Yi So-yeon said.

They talked of how their mental and physical wellbeing has been as much a part of the past year’s training as hitting the textbooks and the zero-gravity chamber.

As always with Russian space missions, the crew will sit down together before blast off to watch the old Soviet film “The White Sun of the Desert”. The comedy classic boosts morale and is thought to bring the mission good luck.

The Soyuz spacecraft is in position at the launch pad in Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, ready for take-off at 3.16pm Moscow time on Tuesday.

Watch the launch LIVE on RT’s 24-hour news channel. Coverage starts at 3pm