Paris, 10 November 2002
ESA's Belgian astronaut returns from Odissea mission
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne came back to Earth today (Sunday, 10
November 2002) after a successful Soyuz mission to the International Space
Station involving nine days of ground- breaking scientific research and
the delivery of a brand new TMA-1 Soyuz spacecraft.
Odissea - following the equally successful Marco Polo mission last April with ESA's Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori - is the latest in a series of European manned missions to the Space Station.
The Odissea mission crew - Frank De Winne and the Russians Sergei Zaletin, Soyuz Mission Commander, and Yuri Lonchakov, Soyuz Flight Engineer - flew into orbit on the first ever flight of the new Soyuz model TMA and returned in the old TM-34 Soyuz that had been attached to the Space Station as an emergency return vehicle for the last six months. Safely descending to Earth in their Soyuz TM-34 capsule, the crew ended a 11-day mission with a flawless night landing near the town of Arkalyk on the plains of Kazakhstan at 06:04 local time (00:04 GMT).
ESA astronaut Frank de Winne, a former Belgian Air Force fighter pilot and the first non-Russian ever to fly on the maiden flight of a Russian vehicle, described his first voyage into space as "the most intense, challenging and unbelievably fulfilling 11 days of my professional life."
During his nine-day stay on the Space Station, De Winne worked on a substantial programme of 23 scientific experiments. These included four physical science experiments for which De Winne made use of the newly installed Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) research facility - an important piece of hardware designed and developed by Europe located in the US laboratory. On his second day on the Space Station, Saturday, 2 November 2002, he also had the pleasure of taking part in celebrations to mark the second anniversary of the beginning of permanent habitation of the Station by resident crews.
"Over the past two years, the Space Station has gradually become an advanced scientific laboratory for world-class research for the benefit of life on Earth. Europe's contributions in the form of research facilities like the MSG and, in particular, ESA's Columbus laboratory - which will be added to the orbiting complex in less than two years from now, in October 2004 - and regular taxi flights with European astronauts demonstrate the importance of European expertise in this international project," said De Winne.
30 October 2002
ESA's Belgian astronaut on way to Space Station in new Soyuz spacecraft
The fourth taxi flight to the International Space Station carrying a
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut and two Russian crew members made a
perfect lift-off today (Wednesday, 30 October 2002) from the vast open
plains of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, into the rising sun at 08:11 local time
(04:11 Central European Time, 03:11 Universal Time).
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, a former Belgian Air Force pilot, and his fellow crew members, Soyuz Mission Commander Sergei Zaletin and Soyuz Flight Engineer Yuri Lonchakov, are due to dock with the Space Station in two days' time on Friday, 1 November at 06:00 CET (05:00 UT). The hatch between the Soyuz spacecraft and the Space Station will be opened at 07:30 CET (06:30 UT).
The crew are flying a new Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft, a modified and updated version of the TM-34 Soyuz capsule currently attached to the Space Station.
It will remain attached to the Space Station for six months - acting as a rescue vehicle for the resident crew in case of an onboard emergency.
Soyuz Flight Engineer De Winne, the first Belgian astronaut to visit the Space Station and the first non-Russian ever to fly on the first flight of a new Russian vehicle, is the fourth European astronaut to visit the Station.
During his eight-day stay, De Winne will carry out a programme of 23 experiments in the fields of life and physical sciences and education, including four physical science experiments using the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) - an important research facility designed and developed in Europe.
De Winne's hopes for the mission extend beyond the success of the new Soyuz spacecraft delivery and the programme of experiments. They also encompass the desire to see space made real and exciting for young people.
"During the mission I will be involved in a variety of educational activities. It is important to talk directly to our young people - we need to make space, technology and science interesting and relevant to them," he said.
The Odissea crew will head back to Earth on board the older TM-34 Soyuz currently attached to the Space Station. Landing in Kazakhstan is scheduled for Sunday, 10 November 2002 at 05:03 local time (01:03 CET, 00:03 UT).
October 25, 2002
ESAís Belgian astronaut ready for Space Station mission
A new Soyuz capsule will be launched into space next week on 30 October at 08:11 local time (04:11 CET) from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying the European Space Agencyís first Belgian astronaut to visit the International Space Station and two Russian crew members.
Frank De Winne, a former Belgian Air Force pilot and now a member of ESAís 16-strong astronaut corps, follows in the footsteps of a series of European astronauts who have already visited and worked on board the Space Station.
A prime task of the 11-day Odissea mission is to replace the TM-34 Soyuz vehicle currently attached to the Space Station with the new TMA-1 spacecraft, ensuring that the craft that would be used to evacuate the Stationís resident crew in an emergency is always in top condition.
De Winne will play his part as a Soyuz Flight Engineer in the test flight of the new Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft, alongside Soyuz Mission Commander Sergei Zaletin and Soyuz Flight Engineer Yuri Valentinovich Lonchakov.
"Itís a privilege to be the first Belgian to visit the Space Station and an honour to be the first non-Russian ever to fly on the first flight of a new Russian Soyuz vehicle," said De Winne, speaking from Star City in Moscow during the final days of training before launch.
"The multi-purpose Odissea mission represents Europeís strengthening role in the Space Stationís rapid development, and training for the mission has been challenging and very rewarding."
"Iím eagerly awaiting next week when I arrive at the Station, meet my fellow astronauts and cosmonauts on board, and finally put months of training into practice," he said.
Two days after launch the Soyuz TMA-1 with De Winne, Zaletin and Lonchakov will approach and dock with the orbiting complex some 400 km above the Earth.
De Winne, whose flight is sponsored by the Belgian Federal Office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural Affairs (OSTC), will become the fourth European astronaut to visit the International Space Station and the first European astronaut to work in both the Russian and American segments of the Space Station.
"In only two years from now, with the Columbus module added to the International Space Station, Europe will have its own permanently available laboratory in space for scientific and application-oriented experiments, technology tests and commercial services", said ESA Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity JŲrg Feustel-BŁechl. "This flight is another important step not only in the cooperation with our Russian partners, but also for the practical preparation of European astronauts for their future role as flight engineers and scientific experimenters on the International Space Station."
During his nine day stay on board the Space Station, De Winne will carry out a programme of 23 experiments in the fields of life and physical sciences and education, including four in a new research facility - the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) - an important piece of hardware designed and developed in Europe.
The MSG provides an enclosed, sealed environment in which to perform experiments on combustion, fluids and biotechnology in a safe, controlled microgravity environment.
"The experiments in the MSG are quite complex and they have relevant and positive implications for science and commercial technology on Earth. They represent a range of different disciplines and applications, all with the ultimate aim of enhancing life on Earth," said De Winne.
"The object of this flight is to get down to real science and it is a privilege to be involved in this extensive science and technology programme."
It was only in the summer of 2001 that De Winne received news that he was to begin training for this Soyuz 'taxi' mission and left the heat of Houston, USA, where he had been preparing as an ESA astronaut for a possible Space Shuttle flight.
"It was a big surprise at first but in reality the Russian approach to training isnít too different from the European and American way - our training philosophy is to provide good learning circumstances once the tough selection phase is over," he explained.
The real challenge of this mission has been to assemble a complex payload programme of 23 experiments within a period of 8 months.
Odissea follows last April's Marco Polo mission with ESAís Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, and is the latest in a series of European manned missions to the Space Station.
Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang is already in training for a mission next July, when he will fly on a Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station. He is expected to carry out several spacewalks to attach new segments to the Space Stationís truss sections.