Six men from three discrete nations—Russia, Canada, and the United States—are presently in residence aboard the International Space Station, following today’s successful docking of the Soyuz TMA-07M craft at the Earth-facing Rassvet Mini-Research Module. Cosmonaut Roman Romanenko brought the vehicle in for a smooth arrival at the gigantic outpost at 2:10 pm GMT (9:10 am EST), to the relief and joy of Soyuz crewmates Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn and the incumbent Expedition 34 team of Kevin Ford, Oleg Novitsky, and Yevgeni Tarelkin. Launched two days ago, the new arrivals entered the station bringing goodies from back home, and the six-strong crew will spend a quiet Christmas, ahead of a busy New Year, characterised by significant scientific research and multiple visiting spacecraft.
In command of Soyuz TMA-07M, Roman Yuryevich Romanenko is the son of former cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, who flew three missions and set an empirical record back in December 1987 for a 326-day flight aboard Mir. He was born in Shchyolkovo, near Moscow, on 9 August 1971, and grew up at Star City, completing high school and entering the Leningrad Suvorov military school. Upon graduation in 1988, Romanenko trained as a pilot-engineer at the Chernigov High Air Force School and later flew L-39 and Tu-134 aircraft as a second commander in the Russian Air Force. He was chosen as a cosmonaut candidate, aged just 26, in December 1997 and completed training two years later. Romanenko flew his first space mission aboard Soyuz TMA-15 from May-December 2009, spending almost 188 days in orbit as a member of the Expedition 20 and 21 crews. A retired Colonel in the Air Force, he has also served as deputy head of the cosmonaut office.
Although Christopher Austin Hadfield served as a flight engineer for the Soyuz launch, orbital operations, rendezvous, and docking, he is destined to make history in mid-March, when he assumes command of the space station as its first Canadian skipper. Hadfield was born in Sarnia, Ontario, on 29 August 1959, and was raised on a corn farm. He became interested in aviation at a young age, but it was the landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in July 1969 which focused his attention upon space. Whilst at high school in Ontario, Hadfield served as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, earning glider and powered pilot scholarships in his mid-teens. He then entered the Canadian Forces and after military college and basic flight training earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 1982. Hadfield graduated at the top of his class in basic jet training and trained as a tactical fighter pilot, flying the Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter and the McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet. As an interceptor pilot, he subsequently became the first CF-188 pilot to intercept a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 long-range bomber in the Canadian Arctic.
Hadfield was selected as a Canadian candidate for the US Air Force’s coveted test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California and later served as an exchange officer with the US Navy, testing the F/A-18 Hornet and A-7 Corsair II aircraft. In the early summer of 1992 he was selected as a Canadian member of NASA’s astronaut corps—alongside Canada’s first man in space, Marc Garneau, who had earlier served as a Shuttle Payload Specialist—and the pair commenced more than a year of dedicated Mission Specialist training. Hadfield’s first flight into space aboard STS-74 in November 1995 made history when he became the only Canadian ever to fly aboard Mir. Subsequent assignments included the headship of the Canadian astronaut corps in 1996-2000 and a place on the EVA crew for STS-100, dedicated to installing the Canadarm2 robotic manipulator onto the International Space Station. This mission took place in April 2001 and saw Hadfield perform two spacewalks, becoming the first of his countrymen to venture outside a spacecraft in orbit.
More than a decade elapsed between his second mission and this week’s launch. For two years, Hadfield was NASA’s Director of Operations in Star City, overseeing the training of expedition astronauts and their support teams in Russia. During this period, he qualified as a Soyuz flight engineer and in the Orlan space suit. Following his departure from the military, with the rank of Colonel, in 2003, he served in as Chief of Robotics and later Chief of International Space Station Operations, before assignment as countryman Bob Thirsk’s backup for the first Canadian long-duration expedition. After supporting Thirsk’s mission in May-December 2009, Hadfield participated in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO)-14 undersea expedition, and in September 2010 was announced as the first Canadian commander of the space station.
The third member of the Soyuz TMA-07M crew, Thomas Henry Marshburn, has been an astronaut since 2004, but can trace his involvement with long-duration missions and the space agency back almost a decade prior to that. Born in Statesville, N.C., on 29 August 1960—making him exactly a year younger than Chris Hadfield—he entered Davidson College to earn a degree in physics. After graduation in 1982, Marshburn enrolled at Wake Forest University and gained his medical degree in 1989, followed by a master’s in medical science from the University of Texas Medical Branch. As a physician, he trained and worked extensively in emergency medicine and joined NASA’s Johnson Space Center in 1994 as a flight surgeon. During the following years, Marshburn supported the Shuttle-Mir effort at Star City, rising to become co-chair of medical operations in 1997-98. Among his final assignments before selection as an astronaut candidate, he served as Lead Flight Surgeon for Expedition 7, a six-month mission by Yuri Malenchenko and Ed Lu to the International Space Station in April-October 2003.
With his background in Shuttle-Mir, Marshburn’s name was instantly recognisable when the list of new astronauts was published by NASA in May 2004. After two years of astronaut training and a variety of technical responsibilities, he flew his first mission on STS-127 in July 2009, during which he supported three EVAs to install and outfit the Exposed Facility, the final segment of Japan’s Kibo laboratory complex. During this mission, he flew alongside Roman Romanenko, who was then halfway through his six-month tour of duty on Expeditions 20 and 21. In May of the following year, he also ‘flew’ with Chris Hadfield as a member of the NEEMO-14 undersea crew. Thus, when the names of these three men were announced in September 2010 as a future station crew, they were already far from strangers.
The coming months will bring them together as never before. Romanenko, Hadfield, and Marshburn are expected to remain in orbit until 14 May, giving them an anticipated mission duration of 146 days. During this period, they will pursue a busy mission, including the scheduled arrival of SpaceX’s second dedicated Dragon cargo craft in March, under its $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, together with two Russian Progress freighters and the arrival of Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (the ATV-4, named in honour of Albert Einstein). In mid-March, the Expedition 34 team of Ford, Novitsky, and Tarelkin will return to Earth, handing command over to Hadfield, and two weeks later a new three-man ensemble of Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Aleksandr Misurkin and NASA’s Chris Cassidy are due to arrive. No spacewalks from the US Segment are currently planned for their expedition, despite ISS power system issues and two unplanned EVAs earlier this year, but Romanenko will participate in an excursion with Vinogradov outside the Russian Segment in April.