­The three-person Soyuz TMA-O7M mission docked with the ISS at 14:08 GMT, two days after its successful launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome. Russian  cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, American astronaut Tomas Marshburn and  Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will spend 147 days aboard the  orbiting laboratory. This Soyuz crew is all-veteran, with all its members having been in orbit before. Flight  Engineer Romanenko, 41, is a Russian Air Force Major who commanded a  Soyuz spaceship in 2009. Back then, he spent six months working at the  ISS. Romanenko is a second-generation astronaut: his father Yury flew  three Soyuz missions and set a record for time spent in space during his  1987 mission to the Mir station. NASA astronaut Marshburn, 51, a  former flight surgeon, took part in a Space Shuttle mission to the ISS  in July 2009, where he’s briefly worked with Romanenko. This was his  first Soyuz flight and it will be his first long-duration space mission  as well. Hadfield, 53, of the Canadian Space Agency, served as a  Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, and has two Space Shuttle  missions under his belt. He will be the first Canadian astronaut to take  command of the space station team. The jubilee 150th Soyuz  docking coincided with the “end of the world”, which the Russian space  agency Roscosmos disregarded as “fantasy” in a statement earlier. Romanenko,  Marshburn and Hadfield have been welcomed about by the three ISS crew  members who’ve already spent one month in space. Together, the enlarged  team will celebrate Christmas, New Year and Orthodox Christmas. During  the next five months the astronauts will be very busy unloading cargo  ships, undertaking spacewalks and conducting more than 100 scientific  experiments. These include testing a system for predicting natural  disasters. Music will serve as a diversion for the astronauts, and a special space band project might even be possible. A guitar player and singer, Hadfield said he will record a number of songs during his space travel. He  will be joined by Romanenko, who also plays guitar and is bringing a  mouth organ with him to support the band. The Russian astronaut will  again be following in his father’s footsteps as he was the first man to  take a guitar into space. Marshburn too being an avid guitar player said music would help him overcome homesickness. Playing  music has been quite a popular hobby among the astronauts, despite all  the trouble with bringing instruments on board the space station. The  instruments that have already made their way to orbit include guitars, a  flute, keyboards, a saxophone, an Australian didgeridoo and an Irish  tin whistle.

­Space salaries not so astronomical?

­There’s more good news for the Russian cosmonaut, he’ll be getting a substantial pay rise, the first for Russian spacefarers for nearly two decades. After the increase, cosmonauts will be paid 69,600 rubles ($2,260) a month – approximately $27,000 a year. There’ll be additional awards for years served, time spent on missions and an automatic New Year bonus. This is significantly better than the $1,000 dollars a month that used to make up their salary, but it’s still just a fraction of what NASA spacemen get. NASA astronaut salaries range from $60,000 to $130,000 a year – two to four times more than their Russian counterparts with the same experience. European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts are paid best of all. Salaries start at €4,800 ($6,370) per month, and can go up to €7,900 ($10,480) a month, though even the top astronauts are two pay grades below their heads of departments. However, the differences in salaries seem not so radical for those working in space. While NASA and ESA astronauts are paid the same salaries on the ground, as they are in space, Russians are heavily incentivized for performing every task during an actual mission, and a six month tour on the International Space Station can bring in as much $150,000 dollars. (RT News)]]>

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