20 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers floated into the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday morning about 90 minutes after his Soyuz TM-4 space capsule docked smoothly with the orbiting laboratory.
Kuipers — who blasted off on Monday morning from the Russian launch site Baikonur in Kazakhstan — will remain nine days on board the ISS. The European Space Agency astronaut will conduct a series of experiments before returning to Earth.
Carrying its Russian commander Gennadi Padalka, US astronaut Michael Fincke and Kuipers, the auto-piloted Soyuz docked with the ISS at about 7am and immediately after arrival, Kuipers said that everything had gone smoothly.
“It is fantastic here and I look forward to starting the programme,” he said.
The Dutchman also said that during his voyage to the ISS he had seen the Netherlands far below him free of cloud cover. A spokesman for Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven congratulated him for the successful journey, public news service NOS reported.
Kuipers — who did not suffer from space sickness, which can occur due to the weightless conditions of space flight — felt fit enough after Monday’s launch to start his first experiment in the Soyuz on Tuesday.
The physician’s experiment is a study into the effects of weightlessness on inflammation on behalf of the Amsterdam University and the AMC hospital in the Dutch capital.
At 400km above the Earth’s surface, Kuipers will also carry out an extensive experiment programme in the fields of human physiology, biology, microbiology, physical science, earth observation, education and technology.
The launch of the TM-4 capsule was the third manned mission to the ISS since US shuttle flights were halted after the Columbia broke up on re-entry on 1 February 2003. Russian rockets are presently the only means for crews to travel to the space station.
Kuipers’ family watched the docking with the ISS from the command centre in the Russian capital Moscow. “Beautiful, beautiful,” his father said. “From here it looks easy, but something’s happening up there.”
The 45-year-old Kuipers will return to the Earth with the present ISS crew, Michael Foale and the Russian Alexander Kaleri. They will return in the Soyuz TMA-3, while the TM-4 will remain docked as an emergency escape capsule.
The return flight to Earth is scheduled to start at 10.46pm on 29 April when the capsule is detached from the ISS. Kuipers and his two fellow crewmen will then land in the steppes of Kazakhstan on 30 April.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news