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The next crew of the International Space Station is preparing to launch on 1 October from Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. When the Soyuz rocket launches, the astronaut and the cosmonaut will be joined by a private citizen, 60-year-old Dr. Gregory Olsen.

Olsen, described as a scientist and businessman, will be the third civilian visitor to the ISS. He will spend eight days on the station under a a contract with Russian space agency Roscosmos, before returning to Earth with the outgoing ISS crew.

William McArthur, 54, a retired Army colonel and Cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, 52, a Russian Air Force colonel, will be taking over from Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and NASA Science Officer John Phillips. McArthur will be mission commander, while Tokarev will serve as flight engineer and Soyuz commander.

Tokarev has stayed aboard the ISS before, briefly, in 1999 when on a Shuttle mission. McArthur has four previous space flights to his name.

During their six months on board, the pair will focus on Station assembly preparations, maintenance and science in microgravity.

The Expedition 12 crew with spend just over a week in hand over with the existing crew. Expedition 11 will return to Earth on board the Soyuz capsule, expected to land in Kazakhstan on Monday, 10 October. ®

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