Home > Science & Technology, Space, Things I Like... > Expedition 31 – Space Ships on Trains in Kazakhstan..

Expedition 31 – Space Ships on Trains in Kazakhstan..

I saw this rather intriguing image in someone else’s newspaper on my way home last night…

It showed an old 1960’s diesel train pulling what looked like a huge rocket through the middle of nowhere. I liked the juxtaposition of the old, the new and the emptiness and I went to find out more…

It turns out that the rocket is a Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft and is being carried by train to the Baikonur launch pad in the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan, from where it will take off on its short journey to the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket is moved to the launch pad area a couple of days prior to take off so that it can be fulled up and prepared for its journey…

The whole event goes by the name “Expedition 31” and the take off was scheduled for 9.05am this morning (Tuesday 15th May) with a crew of both Russian and US astronauts aiming to spend the next few months in orbit. It’s not clear from the reports I’ve read, but I think the rocket will also pick up and bring some astronauts who are already up in space, back home.

Interestingly (and I didn’t know this till last night), NASA which officially retired its shuttle fleet  last year, has relied exclusively on Russian Soyuz craft for transporting personnel to the ISS since late 2009. The trip to the station takes two days from launch to docking, as the rocket has to chase the space station around its earth orbit, whereas the return to Earth takes less than 3.5 hours.

There are a lot more photos on NASA’s flickr site here

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