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by Staff Writers
Houston TX (SPX) Dec 30, 2012
The six Expedition 34 crew members aboard the International Space Station are seeing out the old year and ringing in the new one as they orbit 260 miles above the Earth. Their home in space marked a number of milestones in 2012 and is poised for a new year filled with more cutting-edge research, an increase in commercial resupply activity and continued international cooperation.
Because the station travels around the Earth every hour and a half, the station's crew will have ample opportunity to celebrate the arrival of 2013 all day long. Meanwhile, as the third brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon, people can see the orbiting laboratory when it passes overhead at dawn or dusk. NASA's "Spot the Station" service will send an email or text message a few hours before the station is visible.
During the course of 2012, a total of 15 crew members over five Expeditions called the space station home. Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin of the 34th Expedition crew arrived to the station Oct. 25 and were joined by Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn, Chris Hadfield and Roman Romanenko on Dec. 21.
When Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin return to Earth in March 2013, Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency will become the first Canadian to command the space station as Expedition 35 gets under way. 12 other astronauts and cosmonauts will serve aboard the station throughout 2013, including NASA's Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Wakata will become the first Japanese commander of the station in 2014.
The station also played host to a fleet of four different types of cargo ships in 2012 delivering food, fuel, air and supplies from every corner of the globe. In addition to the familiar Russian Progress space freighters, ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle and JAXA's H-II Transfer Vehicle, the station welcomed its first commercially contracted resupply ship, the SpaceX Dragon.
Another commercial cargo vehicle, Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft, is scheduled to join the station's resupply fleet after it completes its first demonstration flight to the station in 2013.
There were five spacewalks conducted outside the station in 2012, including three by astronauts Suni Williams and Aki Hoshide during Expeditions 32 and 33. With the completion of a 6-hour, 38-minute spacewalk on Nov. 1 to troubleshoot an ammonia leak, Commander Williams broke the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut. Since the 1998 launch of the first component of the station, the Zarya module, there have been 166 spacewalks in support of station assembly, totaling 1,049 hours and 1 minute - the equivalent of 44 days.
More spacewalks are planned for 2013 to prepare the station for the arrival of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module, which is replacing the Pirs docking compartment installed in 2001. Equipped with the European Robotic Arm and a docking port, the new module will provide the Russian segment of the station with new crew quarters and more space to conduct scientific research.
2012 marked busy year for science aboard the station. With a variety of new investigations, facilities, researchers, data and results, the space station Program Science Office has had much to share. These investigations benefit life on Earth, inform future space exploration and advance fundamental scientific understanding.
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