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Space Station Crew Draws Closer to a Longtime Dream

November 01, 2000|Associated Press

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — American William Shepherd and two Russians who rocketed into orbit Tuesday began fulfilling the once-fantastic dream of permanent occupancy in space.

"Let's go do it!" Shepherd, the mission's commander, shouted before climbing into the Soyuz rocket and blasting off with his crew on a quest to become the first residents of the international space station.

"It's history again repeating itself, in a different way," said Joe Rothenberg, head of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's human space flight program. "Space shouldn't be the same again."

The 17-story green Soyuz, turned frosty white by the super-cold fuel, vanished into dense fog three seconds after liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Its brightly burning engines were visible several seconds later as the rocket gained speed and altitude.

Nine minutes later, Shepherd and his crew mates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, were in orbit and giving chase to the space station, a $60-billion-plus joint project of the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and 10 member nations of the European Space Agency.

The three men will reach their new home Thursday and settle in for a four-month stay. They will activate the life-support systems and start tackling all the maintenance and repair chores that have been piling up since the new living quarters joined the rest of the complex in July.

Visiting space shuttle astronauts took care of as many chores as they could in September and October.

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