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New 'nauts ride Russian rocket to shift change at the space station

Crew still rejoicing at absence of Pettit's didgeridoo

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Thee new crew are on their way to the International Space Station, successfully launching over the weekend to replace the three who made it back to earth earlier this month.

Russian Yuri Malenchenko, Akihiko Hoshide from Japan and NASA's Sunita Williams launched on Saturday and should make it to the station tomorrow. They'll meet up with existing residents Gennady Padalka, Sergei Revin and Joseph M. Acaba for a four-month stint in the array of orbiting tin cans.

The three replacements will be docking tomorrow morning, and have twitter feeds for those interested in the minutia of the mission. They'll be up there until mid-November, with Williams taking command of the station when their colleagues return to Earth in September

The new arrivals are replacing the three who headed home last month having completed their tour, making landfall in Kazakhstan on July 1. That trio included Don Pettit, who spent much of his spare time in orbit playing the Didgeridoo, for effect, and creating orbital polystyrene from Lego, much to the amusement of those who feel space exploration isn't as silly as it ought to be.

Williams and Hoshide have both been to the ISS before, Williams back in 2006 and Hoshide in 2008, but Malenchenko is the real space veteran having done a stint on Mir (the long-lived Russian space station) and made three previous trips to the International Space Station.

There's lots more details on the NASA site, and Heavens Above will tell one where and when to look to catch a glimpse of the orbiting station with the naked eye, which remains somehow more impressive than recorded video or pretty graphics. ®

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