ISS Expedition 31: In front Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko (right), commander; and Gennady Padalka, flight engineer. Back row from the left are NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Revin, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers and NASA astronaut Don Pettit, all flight engineers (Credits: NASA).

The second half of International Space Station Expedition 31 crew launched successful from Baikonour Cosmodrome aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M on May 15. Flight engineers Joe Acaba, Gennady Padalka, and Sergei Revin are scheduled to rendezvous with their crewmates aboard ISS on May 16.

This will be cosmonaut Gennady Padalka’s fourth mission. His first space flight was a commander aboard the Mir space station in 1998 and he later commanded ISS expeditions 9 and 19. Since his last flight he has headed up the EVA preparation department in Star City, training new astronauts and cosmonauts in extreme condition survival. He will participate in his own EVA during Expecition 31 and command the following Expedition 32 crew.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba is a former teacher. This will be his second space mission, his first being a mission specialist aboard shuttle STS-119 during which he accumulated nearly 13 hours of spacewalks. He’s looking forward to learning some tricks on educating in space from Don Pettit, known for his microgravity physics demonstrations, as well as being back in orbit. “There’s nothing cooler than living in space,” he said in a NASA interview about this mission.

Cosmonaut Sergei Revin is experiencing his first space mission, having joined the cosmonaut core in 1996 and completing his spaceflight training in 1998. Revin is a physicist interested in Earth observation.

If all goes well, this expedition will witness the first commercial cargo run to ISS when the SpaceX Dragon launches, now scheduled for May 19.

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