April 4, 2011
The Soyuz TMA-21 crew is scheduled to blast off for the International Space Station this evening, with NASA astronaut Ron Garan and two rookie cosmonauts, Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Andrei Borisenko, onboard, ready to begin the Expedition 27 mission.
Because their trip comes close to the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first spaceflight, the ship has been named Gagarin. As part of the anniversary celebration, the Russian space agency invited school children to submit a logo, and the lucky winner was 12-year-old Marciel Santos Kayle Riss from French Guiana. Yesterday, during the crew’s farewell news conference in Kazakhstan, Marciel requested that they “shake” his hand through the glass that keeps them protected from germs. That’s Garan at far left, Borisenko at far right.
You can watch more of the crew’s press conference below. At one point they mention that they’ll be watching White Sun of the Desert later that evening—a tradition for cosmonauts on the day before launch. The 1970 epic is as familiar to Russians as Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz is to Americans, and everyone knows the lines and the songs. Watch it for yourself (in eight parts) on YouTube.
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