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Soyuz TMA-3 mission at a glance:


  • Alexander Kaleri (Russia) Commander:
  • Michael Foale (USA) NASA Science Officer

Main task: To deliver and return the 8th long-duration crew of the International Space Station, ISS.


2003 October 18

Docking date:

2003 October 20

Landing date:

2004 April 30


195 days (extended one day from the original plan)


Previous mission: Soyuz TMA-2

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The mission of the Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft to the International Space Station in the fall of 2003, was originally intended to be a routine exchange of a rescue vehicle onboard the outpost. The so-called "taxi crew," would fly Soyuz TMA-3 to the station, spend a week onboard and then parachute back to Earth inside the reentry capsule of the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft. However the loss of Columbia and resulting grounding of the Shuttle fleet left Russia as a "care taker" of the station and the Soyuz spacecraft as the only vehicle capable of rotating crews onboard the outpost. As a result, the Soyuz TMA-3 mission was re-purposed to carry aloft and return the eighth long-term crew of the station.

On July 25, 2003, NASA officially announced that NASA astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri are set to be the eighth crew to live aboard the International Space Station. The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft was scheduled to bring the crew to the station in October 2003 and return it back to Earth six months later.

Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Rosaviacosmos, also felt safe to resume week-long missions of guest cosmonauts to the ISS. European Space Agency, ESA sponsored a number of such missions in a special agreement with Russian Federation. The next in-line for the flight was European astronaut Pedro Duque, representing Spain, one of the ESA members.

Pre-launch processing

2003 October 6: Primary and backup crews of the Soyuz TMA-3 arrived to Baikonur for a familiarization training with their spacecraft.

2003 October 7: Primary and backup crews of the Soyuz TMA-3 conducted familiarization training with their spacecraft in Baikonur.

2003 October 8: The fueling of the Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft.

2003 October 11: Final inspection of the Soyuz TMA-3 by the officials

2003 October 13: Primary and backup crews inspect the Soyuz TMA-3 inside processing building at Site 254.

2003 October 14: A payload section with the Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft was transported from Site 254 to the processing building at Site 112 for integration with the Soyuz FG launch vehicle.

2003 October 15: A payload section with the Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft was integrated with the Soyuz FG launch vehicle.

2003 October 16: The Soyuz FG launch vehicle with Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft was rolled out from the assembly building at Site 110 to the launch pad at Site 2.

The launch

The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft, carrying a crew of three blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 1, at 9:38:03 Moscow Summer Time on October 18, 2003, heading to the ISS.

Onboard were the Russian commander Alexander Kaleri, NASA Science Officer Michael Foale, comprising the eight long-term crew of the station, and European astronaut Pedro Duque, a visiting crew member. Duque returned to Earth after eight days onboard the outpost, in the company of the seventh long-term crew, which stayed in orbit since April 2003.

The Soyuz TMA-3 successfully docked to the Pirs module of the ISS on October 20 at 11:15:58 Moscow Time (0715 GMT). (Scheduled time: 0716 GMT). After a week-long hand-over activities, Expedition 7 and Duque returned to Earth onboard Soyuz TMA-2 on Oct. 27, 2003.

The Soyuz TMA-3 (No. 213, Mission 7S) was the seventh Russian manned spacecraft to fly to the ISS, the third to deliver a long-term crew and the second carrying people to the station, since the loss of the Shuttle Columbia and the resulting grounding of the US manned space fleet. Russian transport ships are expected remain the only link to the ISS for the most of 2004. Due to limited capabilities of the Russian supply system, the standard long-duration crews were reduced from three to two people.

Crunch time for the International Space Station

Posted: 2003 October 23

While the eight crew was settling onboard the ISS, doubts about the future of the station continued lingering below.

As the Shuttle fleet remained grounded, Russians essentially held the keys from the station. They launched fresh crews and cargo ships with the precision of a Swiss clock and promised to get the International Space Station through the Space Shuttle hiatus; however, behind the scene, Russian space officials voiced concerns for years about dangers to the orbiting outpost.

The lack of funds they said had left the Russian side of the International Space Station running on a shoestring budget for practically a decade, since the nation joined the partnership in 1993. Yet, all appeals to the Russian government and to the international partners have been left unheard, as country's space officials scrapped for cash to complete virtually every Russian mission to the ISS. In some respect, Russians fell victims of their own success. Despite all the financial pressure, their Soyuz lifeboats and Progress cargo ship were taking off with remarkable regularity and always reached the outpost without a hitch. Not surprisingly, repeating Russian pleas over the years for more cash started sounding like ... well ... an extortion ploy.

In the meantime, Russian planners kept extending time between resupply missions to the ISS, slowly degrading the cache of spare parts and water onboard the station. On February 1, 2003, the Columbia tragedy and resulting grounding of the Shuttle fleet placed an entire burden of maintaining the station on Russia. At the time, officials from RKK Energia, (the country's leading station contractor) urged their foreign partners to come up with extra funds to finance emergency supply missions to the ISS.

In May 2003, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe visited Moscow and promised his Russian counterparts to consider the issue, however no real steps had followed. The US Congress prohibited NASA to transfer money to Russia as a punishment for the Russian assistance to Iran to build its nuclear capacity. Although during recent summit, Presidents Bush and Putin reported some progress on the issue, the congressional restrictions on NASA's dealings with the Russians had never been lifted.

Although NASA officially maintained that Russian funding problems did not endanger the ISS, unofficially many NASA representatives admitted that financial problems were slowly degrading the station's capacity to support the crew, first of all its crucially important water supplies and availability of spare parts. Days after the launch of the Soyuz TMA-3, Washington Post run an article, which quoted unidentified NASA officials, voicing serious concerns about the safety of the ISS crew. However several times before, RKK Energia officials did go on record, saying that recently they raised the possibility of withdrawing the permanent crew from the station to save funds. During this year, Yuri Grigoriev, Deputy Designer General at RKK Energia, said that unless funds for the extra cargo launches at the end of 2003 and during 2004 were found, the partners might face the prospect of flying the station unmanned.

Grigoriev warned that although the unmanned flight of the outpost is not impossible and the station's flight control system is in good shape, absence of crew onboard poses additional risk of irreversible breakdowns and complete loss of control over the orbital facility. In 1984, the Russian Salyut-7 space station went out of control, while flying unmanned, which required an extremely dangerous rescue mission to revive the outpost. When the rescue crew finally boarded the Salyut-7 in 1985, it found all station's crucial systems frozen dead and its internal volume virtually uninhabitable. It took weeks of harsh conditions and dangerous work to bring the facility back online.

Spacesuit trouble interrupts station spacewalk

Published: 2004 Feb. 27

Problems with cooling system in one of the spacesuits forced two astronauts onboard the International Space Station, ISS, to cut short their venture outside of the outpost.

Commander Michael Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri left Pirs Docking Compartment onboard the ISS on February 26, at 2117 GMT.

Their scheduled tasks included the retrieval of a set of retroreflectors from the aft end of the Zvezda Service Module. Retrieval of the retroreflectors would assist the preparation of navigational data for next year's maiden arrival of a new European supply ship. The spacewalkers were also expected to deploy an experiment test bed designed to study the radiation environment and change sample packages in a Japanese materials exposure experiment. They also will change sample packages in a Russian apparatus that is used to study the residue created from Station thruster firings and install a Russian materials exposure experiment.

However after more than three hours outside of the station, the Orlan spacesuit worn by Alexander Kaleri got overheated and as a result, the cosmonaut's visor was covered with fog impairing his vision enough to terminate further work outside. The crew's work to support the arrival of the European cargo ship had not been accomplished.

The spacewalk lasted 3 hours and 55 minutes and concluded on February 27 at 0112 GMT.

According to Russian space officials, the problem with the cooling system was caused by natural flattening of the plastic tube in the cooling loop. The troubled spacesuit had not been used for more than a year, as a result of the long lull in the station construction in the wake of the Columbia accident. It was apparently delivered to the station as far back as 2001. Ironically, a brand new spacesuit was just recently delivered to the station onboard the latest Progress cargo ship, however it was not used for the latest spacewalk.

Soyuz TMA-3 landing

On April 30, 2004, after nine days of handover activities onboard the station, the Expedition 8 crew along with ESA astronaut André Kuipers, who arrived with Soyuz TMA-4 nine days earlier, boarded Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft. It undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment of the ISS at 00:52 Moscow Time on April 30, 2004.

According to RKK Energia, the spacecraft developer, the Soyuz TMA-3 initiated a braking maneuver at 03:20 Moscow Time and at 03:45 habitation and instrument modules separated from the reentry capsule. The craft entered the Earth atmosphere around 03:48 and successfully landed in Kazakhstan at 04:11:46 Moscow Time (0011 GMT).

The landing site was located some 60 kilometers northeast of the town of Arkalyk at the point 50.38 North latitude and 67.20 East longitude.

The Soyuz TMA-3 mission lasted 195 days, including 193 days docked to the ISS.

Next mission: Soyuz TMA-4

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The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on October 20, 2003. Credit: NASA

The seventh and eight crews plus a European guest astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in October 2003. From the left (front row) are cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko, Expedition 7 mission commander; European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Pedro Duque of Spain; astronaut C. Michael Foale, Expedition 8 mission commander and NASA ISS science officer. From the left (back row) are astronaut Edward T. Lu, Expedition 7 NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer, and cosmonaut Alexander Y. Kaleri, Expedition 8 flight engineer. Credit: NASA

The Soyuz TMA-4 departs the International Space Station. Credit: NASA