Image: Sharipov, Chiao, Shargin
Ivan Sekretarev  /  AP
American astronaut Leroy Chiao, center, is commander for the international space station's Expedition 10. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Shargin is at right, and Salizhan Sharipov is at left during a meeting with reporters Thurday at the Star City cosmonaut training complex.
updated 9/23/2004 7:00:11 PM ET 2004-09-23T23:00:11

The next crew for the international space station said Thursday it will conduct experiments to research new AIDS vaccines and plant growth, and work on new space vehicles that will help future missions to the moon and Mars.

Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao will blast off Oct. 11 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to replace Gennady Padalka and Mike Fincke, who are winding down a six-month mission on the orbiting station.

Cosmonaut Yuri Shargin also will travel into space, but is to return nine days later with Padalka and Fincke.

Russian space vehicles have provided the only link with the space station since the United States grounded the shuttle fleet after Columbia broke apart during re-entry Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

“I think it is a service to the memory of the crew of the Columbia that we continue our work in space,” Chiao, 44, of Danville, Calif., told reporters at Russia’s Star City, just outside Moscow. “I think exploration is something that is really innate to the human organism and something that kind of separates us from the other forms of life on earth.”

Sharipov said the pair will conduct at least two spacewalks — the first one scheduled for the end of this year, when they will install antennas and cameras on the station’s exterior.

In February, the pair is scheduled again to walk outside the station in preparation for the arrival of a European-built cargo ship, the ATV Jules Verne, he said.

Chiao, a veteran of three shuttle flights and four spacewalks, said the crew will also conduct medical experiments to help researchers find a vaccine for AIDS, and will begin tests on a new space vehicle that could be used in future missions.

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