The main and backup crews for the next mission to the International Space Station (ISS) started on Tuesday their final tests at a space training center near Moscow.
Russia’s Soyuz-FG carrier rocket bearing the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on September 30.
“It is a special day for the crews – they start the final tests [for the mission],” Sergei Krikalev, the head of the training center at Star City told reporters.
The main crew comprises Russian cosmonaut Maxim Surayev and U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams.
Guy Laliberte, founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, is set to join the mission as a space tourist.
The backup crew comprises Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov and U.S. astronaut Shannon Walker. The backup space tourist is Barbara Barrett, a U.S. businesswoman and former U.S. ambassador to Finland.
The main crew will take their tests on Tuesday on a ground simulator of the Russian segment of the ISS, while the backup crew will be tested on a Soyuz spacecraft simulator.
On Wednesday, the crews will trade places, and a special commission will announce the final crew composition on Thursday based on the results of the tests.
TMA-16 will be the 103rd flight of a Soyuz spacecraft since 1967. The spacecraft will most likely remain docked with the space station for the remainder of the Expedition 22 mission to serve as an emergency escape vehicle