You can call it a milestone in space history. It will be the first of its kind. It is a space event which one is looking forward to. A family affair.
For the first time in world space history, a pair of twins will be at the International Space Station (ISS). They are Scott and Mark Kelly, born on February 21,1964. In a way it will be a birthday coincidenence which both of them will never forget. The twin spacemen will team up in orbit six days later when Nasa's space shuttle Endeavour under the command of Mark Kelly lifts off from the Kennedy Space Centre on February 27,2011.
On Sunday, an upgraded Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying two cosmonauts--one of them Scott Kelly--and its commander docked with the ISS. After a successful docking, the hatches were opened at about 8.45 a.m. (IST).
Veteran CBS space correspondent, William Harwood, quotes Mark Kelly saying in a light hearted way impersonating Scott: ``Hey Mark, this is Scott. Six months is a longtime in space. So thanks for switching spots with me. Just hoping I can remember how to fly that space shuttle!'' he said jocularly to his brother who reached the ISS on Sunday morning.
When the Soyuz docked Scott's daughter, Samantha, was celebrating her birthday on October 9---incidentally she shares it with my late uncle, Swaminathan, a space enthu and also India's spaceport, Sriharikota. It reminds me of my association with Chandrayaan-1 which will be observing the second anniv of its super launch on October 22,2010.
The Soyuz TMA-OIM which carried the three to the ISS is a digital spacecraft. Vitaly Lopota, president of RSC Energia, the manufactuers of the spacecraft, has stated that the flight was cent per cent automatic.
Here is another first--two days ago when the hi tech Soyuz blasted off from Baikonour cosmodrome with Scott Kelly, his brother Mark was present at the spaceport and witnessed the grand lift off. He told Russia TV that watching a rocket launch is always an exciting experience. He was quoted as saying that it was incredible and exciting to see a rocket take off with his brother!
Space shuttle, Endeavour---incidentally this will be its last flight--will have as its primary payload a physics experiment which will be mounted on the ISS. Called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer designated as AMS-02, it is a particle physics experiment module. In layman's terms, scientists will use this instrument to study the formation of the universe.
Apart from the physics experiment, Endeavour will deliver spare parts, including two S-band communications antennas and a high pressure gas tank.
Looking forward to the space family reunion.