Moscow, Apr 8 (efe-epa).- Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft is set to launch Friday on a mission to the International Space Station coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the first manned space flight – by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – and the 40th anniversary of the first flight of NASA’s space shuttle.
The Soyuz MS-18 is scheduled to lift off with three crew members on board – Russians Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov and American Mark Vande Hei – at 7:42 GMT Friday from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The launch pad is named after the Vostok, the name of the craft that carried Gagarin (1934-1968) into space on April 12, 1961, and the Soyuz MS-18 is emblazoned with a commemorative emblem that includes a likeness of the first cosmonaut.
On the same day 20 years later, the space shuttle Columbia lifted off from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Soyuz MS-18 is expected to reach the ISS via the so-called fast track at 11.08 GMT after only two orbits of the Earth.
Novitskiy, the commander, will be making his third trip into space, one more than Vande Hei, while Dubrov is preparing for his first flight.
“Of course, I’m afraid. But fear is useful because it helps to avoid hasty decisions,” the rookie cosmonaut told a pre-flight press conference at Baikonur on Thursday.
Dubrov, 43, added that the training includes study of each and every situation that may occur during the mission is studied, giving crew members the knowledge to deal with any contingency.
The coronavirus pandemic has left its mark on preparations for the mission, as all three Soyuz MS-18 crew members have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
One of the main tasks of the Russian cosmonauts will be attaching the Nauka multipurpose module – to be launched July 15 – to one of the four ports the ISS’ Zvezda service module.
The Soyuz MS-18 crew will be welcomed to the ISS by Mission 64 members Kate Rubins of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Roizhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.
Also waiting aboard the ISS are the four people who made the trip last November aboard the SpaceX crew dragon Resilience: US astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Rubins, Rozhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are due to return to Earth on April 17 aboard Soyuz MS-17. EFE