Next Crew Gets Ready For Flight To Space Station

American astronaut Joe Acaba (left) and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka (center) and Sergei Revin (right) are undergoing training at the Johnson Space Center. The three will launch on March 29 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The shuttle program may be over, but astronauts continue to fly back and forth to the International Space Station. The next crew going up includes one American and two Russians; they will launch from Russia in March. In their final public appearance at the Johnson Space Center, the astronauts talked about the six months they'll spend in space.

Joe Acaba is what NASA calls an educator-astronaut. He taught middle school science in Florida before joining the space program in 2004. He’s also the first astronaut with Puerto Rican parents:

“I feel totally lucky, it’s really a dream come true and it’s nothing I would have thought about 8 years ago when I was sitting in a classroom.”

Acaba has flown on one shuttle mission, but that was only for two weeks.

On the space station, he’ll conduct science experiments, help dock and unload cargo vehicles, and have time to just float around and look through the observation cupola.

“It’s going to be cool to have a longer period of time to look out the window. With the shuttle flight it’s very short, now with the cupola there’s a lot more you can see. As a geologist I’m just interested in looking at some of these landforms from a distance, these things that I studied in books, looking at mountain ranges and deserts and things like that.”

Russian space vehicles are now the only way to get humans into orbit.

The Russian program suffered five failures last year – rockets crashed on take-off or couldn’t get their payloads into the right orbit.

All the failures involved cargo only, so no one was hurt.

“We should never fool ourselves that going into space is an easy thing and without risk.”

But Acaba says he’s satisfied with the investigations that took place, and that over all, the Russian vehicles have been very reliable.  

“So I feel really good riding on one, and I’m also very fortunate to fly with one of the most experience cosmonauts on the planet. He’s very well trained and if we do experience any kind of problems, I feel confident as a crew that we can deal with that and get back safety.”

Acaba and his Russian colleagues will head to Europe next for more training and then on to Russia for the launch on March 29.

 From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...