NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, who are making final preparations for a Sept. 12 launch to the International Space Station, will be taking live satellite interviews on Friday, 1 September.
Live from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, the interviews will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website. At 7:30 a.m., NASA TV will also run a video feed of highlights from the astronauts’ training mission.
Acaba and Vande Hei will arrive at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday, Sept. 6, for final pre-launch training. They and their crew mate, veteran cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, will launch on the Russian Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft at 5:17 p.m. on Sept. 12. They are scheduled to return to Earth in February.
The flight plan calls for an arrival at the station about six hours after launch, where they will join Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA, and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency). The crew members will continue several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science currently underway and scheduled to take place aboard humanity’s only permanently occupied orbiting lab.
Among the experiments is Functional Immune, which analyses blood and saliva samples to determine changes taking place in crew members’ immune systems during flight. Results are expected to provide new insight into the possible health risks of long-duration space travel, including future missions to deep space.
Acaba was born in Inglewood, California, and grew up in Anaheim, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in geology at the University of California in Santa Barbara, one master’s degree in geology from the University of Arizona, and one in education, curriculum and instruction from Texas Tech University. Before coming to NASA, he spent time in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and the Peace Corps, worked as a hydro-geologist and taught high school and middle school. This will be Acaba’s third trip to the space station and his second long-duration mission. He was selected as an astronaut in 2004, and flew aboard space shuttle Discovery in 2009. He returned to the station for a longer stay in 2012, as part of Expedition 31 and 32.
From Falls Church, Virginia, Vande Hei earned a bachelor‘s degree in physics from Saint John’s University and a Master’s of Science in applied physics from Stanford University. Prior to becoming an astronaut, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army through the ROTC program and served as a combat engineer. Vande Hei served as a capsule communicator (CAPCOM) in NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center in Houston for Expeditions 15 through 20 and space shuttle missions STS-122, 123, 124, 126 and 127 before being selected as an astronaut in 2009. This will be his first spaceflight.