TWO MEN AND A LADY: WDRB talks pictures, experiments and kids wi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TWO MEN AND A LADY: WDRB talks pictures, experiments and kids with the next space station crew

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The crew of Expedition 41/42, pictured on the right side of the logo. (Courtesy: NASA) The crew of Expedition 41/42, pictured on the right side of the logo. (Courtesy: NASA)
Astronaut Barry Wilmore (Image courtesy: NASA) Astronaut Barry Wilmore (Image courtesy: NASA)
Cosmonaut Elena Serova (Image courtesy: NASA) Cosmonaut Elena Serova (Image courtesy: NASA)
Cosmonaut Elena Serova (Image courtesy: NASA) Cosmonaut Elena Serova (Image courtesy: NASA)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The next crew of the International Space Station -- unceremoniously dubbed "Expedition 41/42" -- is on a break-neck schedule, prepping for their launch aboard a Soyuz capsule in late September, but two of them took a few minutes of their time to speak with WDRB News Wednesday afternoon.

American astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Russian cosmonaut Elena Serova spoke with WDRB's Travis Kircher by phone about their upcoming mission, which is expected to last more than a year.

Serova, who will be the fourth female cosmonaut in space, spoke via an interpreter. She says she knows how she plans to spend her free time aboard the space station:

"I'm planning to take pictures -- lots of pictures," she said.

Serova also plans to conduct experiments "in the educational area" that will deal with "different laws of physics and how they behave in the weightless, zero-G environment."

One local company will likely be watching those experiments with intense interest. As WDRB's Bill Francis reported last month, Greenville, Indiana-based Techshot has developed the Bone Densitometer, a microwave-sized device designed as the first X-ray system to be installed on the space station. Its planned use is to allow astronauts to study how long-term exposure to zero gravity causes bone loss in mice -- and by proxy -- human beings.

"Bone density is a burning issue because if we don't perform a number of exercises aboard the space station, calcium will go out of our bones," Serova said. "So the maintenance and the conservation of the structure of bone tissue is a very important task."

Wilmore admitted that he was not familiar with that particular device, adding that astronauts and cosmonauts will take part in roughly 200 experiments aboard the space station and are not always privy to experiments they are not working on. But he added that bone density studies are critical to the success of future long-term missions.

"As we think about staying longer periods in space and going further places -- to the Moon, to Mars and who-knows-where-else -- we've got to learn how to mitigate what the body does," he said. "The body -- if it's not using a muscle, it says, 'Okay, you don't need that. We'll just let that start fading away a little bit. You're not using a muscle? Okay, you don't need that.' And it stops producing the calcium to support that. So we need to mitigate those things, and that obviously sounds like something -- a very important piece of equipment that would enable us to learn and mitigate those things that can hamper us and will hamper us as we go for those longer duration missions."

In addition to making scientific discoveries, Serova says she hopes the mission inspires the next generation of astronauts. When told that children in the Kentuckiana area could be watching the International Space Station from their backyards, she said she had a message for them.

"I'd like to say that all children -- all kids -- are little geniuses, and if they can hear me now, I'd say that to them over and over again," she said. "This group of kids that we have now on the ground will, in the future, become our future researchers, scientists, doctors and explorers and whatnot, and what they need to do is believe in themselves -- and have a motto to be as follows: You can do everything."

"Our future and their future will depend first and foremost on them," she added.

In addition to Wilmore and Serova, Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samoukutyaev is expected launch aboard the Soyuz capsule on Sept. 25, joining their colleagues, American astronaut Reid Wisemen, Russian cosmonaut Max Suraev and German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who are already there. The Wilmore, Serova and Samoukutyaev plan to remain aboard the station until Dec. 2015.

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