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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Space station prepares a welcome
A new crew of the next manned mission to the international space station (AP)
The three-strong crew are on their way to the ISS
The International Space Station dumped its rubbish on Tuesday, ahead of the arrival of a new crew and the first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari.

A Progress cargo ship packed with old supplies was despatched from the ISS and sent to burn up in the atmosphere.

The new commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin are scheduled to dock at the station at 0524 GMT on Wednesday.

Their Soyuz craft was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Monday.

It has been an eventful few days on the station.

The shuttle Atlantis has just left, having fitted new solar wings to the exterior of the orbiting outpost. The vehicle and its six astronauts are now preparing to land at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

It's a little crowded in the sky this morning
Jeffery Williams
Touchdown is expected at 0559 local time (0959 GMT) on Wednesday.

Having Atlantis and Soyuz travelling at the same time, plus a crew on the ISS, means that 12 people are in space simultaneously - not a record, but highly unusual.

"It's a little crowded in the sky this morning," quipped Jeffery Williams on board the station.

"We were wondering if we had to hire some more air traffic controllers for the increased traffic up here," responded Michael Lopez-Alegria from the Soyuz.

Smoke alert

The Atlantis ship had already vacated the ISS when its current crew, Expedition 13, had to go through an emergency procedure after a foul odour filled the station air.

Soyuz (Getty Images)
The Soyuz lifted off into a blue sky
It is understood that an oxygen generation unit overheated, melting a rubber seal and releasing a small amount of smoke and possibly some potassium hydroxide, a chemical irritant.

The US space agency (Nasa) stressed that the crew - Williams, Pavel Vinogradov and Thomas Reiter - were never in any danger; but the men briefly had to don surgical masks, goggles and gloves.

The unit was cleaned up and the crew returned to their normal duties within an hour.

The International Space Station Programme Manager, Mike Suffredini, said the incident would have no impact on the arrival of the new Expedition 14 crew on Wednesday.

Space holiday

Travelling with Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin is the 40-year-old US businesswoman Anousheh Ansari. She is thought to have paid at least $20m (10.6m) for a holiday in space.

She becomes the fourth tourist to visit the ISS after Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen.

But her initial experiences in space may have been less pleasant than anticipated, with Russian ground controllers breaking off communications between Soyuz, Atlantis and the ISS so Ms Ansari could consult a flight surgeon.

Ahead of her lift-off on Monday, Ms Ansari said she was an ambassador for attracting private investment into space programmes. Her family sponsored the X-Prize, which honoured the first private space plane to make two trips to low-Earth orbit.

As well as enjoying the view, she will carry out a series of scientific experiments for the European Space Agency (Esa).

Her space holiday will end when she returns to Earth at the end of the month, along with Pavel Vinogradov and Jeffery Williams. Thomas Reiter, Esa's first long-stay astronaut on the ISS, will remain aboard the platform with Expedition 14.




SEE ALSO
Lift-off for woman space tourist
18 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Anousheh Ansari: A passion for space travel
15 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Fortune smiles on space race sponsor
23 Aug 06 |  Science/Nature
SpaceShipOne takes X-Prize spoils
08 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Health test defeats space tourist
21 Aug 06 |  Science/Nature
Space tourist returns to Earth
11 Oct 05 |  Science/Nature
Human spaceflight goes commercial
21 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Space tourist hails 'trip to paradise'
06 May 01 |  Science/Nature

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