High above the earth, the International Space Station is preparing to fulfill the dreams of its creators. The latest shuttle mission allowed the ISS to unfurl its final solar panels, which now take enough power from the sun to allow the crew to grow to six, as originally envisaged.A Soyuz rocket is ready for launch at Baikonur in Kazakhstan, carrying a new crew and a seasoned space tourist. American software tycoon Charles Simonyi is the first civilian to make two trips into orbit. “These guys will be the last ones there as a three-person crew,” said Kirk Shireman, ISS deputy manager. “They will do the final work to prepare the onboard systems. It will allow the ground systems to prepare their final preparations so that we can expand to six persons, which was the vision of the International Space Station from the very beginning.” NASA has planned nine more shuttle missions to the 100 billion dollar space station before the fleet is retired next year.
Space station prepares for new life