Elena Serova On Way To Becoming First Russian Woman on ISS – UPDATE 2

Elena Serova On Way To Becoming First Russian Woman on ISS – UPDATE 2

UPDATE 2, September 25, 10:15 pm ET:   Soyuz TMA-14M successfully docked with the ISS at 10:11 pm EDT.  (Further update:  the port solar array became unstuck and deployed after docking.)

UPDATE, September 25, 7:20 pm ET:  NASA confirms that one of the two solar arrays did not deploy once Soyuz TMA-14M was in orbit (the port array).  NASA states that the crew is fine and docking remains on schedule for 10:15 pm ET tonight (one minute earlier than the time published in earlier NASA information).  The solar arrays provide electrical power for spacecraft systems, but apparently one is sufficient for this new, short-duration rendezvous and docking profile (it used to take 2 days).

ORIGINAL STORY, September 25, 6:19 pm ET:  Russian cosmonaut Elena “Lena” Serova and two crewmates lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:25 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) today (September 25).   Assuming all goes well, their Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) at 10:15 pm EDT tonight and she will become the first Russian woman ISS crewmember.  She is just the fourth Russian woman to fly in space since the beginning of the Space Age.

Serova’s Soyuz TMA-14M crewmates are NASA’s Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Roscosmos’s Alexander “Sasha” Samoukutyaev.   This is Samoukutyaev’s second tour of duty aboard the ISS; he was there for 164 days in 2011.  Wilmore visited the ISS on the space shuttle in 2009.  They will join three ISS crewmembers who promised to have dinner waiting for them when they arrive:  NASA’s Reid Wiseman, ESA’s Alexander Gerst and Roscosmos’s Max Suraev.

Soyuz TMA-14M crew:  Barry Wilmore (U.S.), Alexander Samoukutyaev (Russia), Elena Serova (Russia)
Photo credit:  Roscosmos website

It is not unusual to have women on ISS crews.  What is unusual is that it has taken Russia this long.

Achieving space “firsts” was part of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War space rivalry and the Soviet Union launched the first woman into space in 1963 — Valentina Tereshkova.  It would be 19 years before it launched another woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, in 1982, just as publicity was building in advance of Sally Ride’s 1983 STS-7 shuttle mission that marked the first American woman in space.  Savitskaya flew again in 1984, winning the title of the first woman to fly in space twice and the first woman to make a spacewalk, months before the STS-41-G mission where Sally Ride made her second flight and Kathy Sullivan became the first American woman to perform a spacewalk.

Yelena Kondakova was Russia’s third woman in space, making flights in 1994 on a Soyuz and in 1997 on the space shuttle, both times to visit Russia’s Mir space station.  Until today, that was the last spaceflight of a Russian woman.

Serova has degrees in engineering and economics and worked for Russia’s RSC Energia as a flight engineer before being selected as a cosmonaut in 2006.  She and her Soyuz TMA-14M crewmates are expected to return to Earth in March 2015.

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