Science & Astronomy
5. November 2013

The International Space Station, currently the only human outpost in space, is going to be as busy as a railway station this week – it has happened before, but at the same time it is highly unusual to have more than six astronauts at the same time there. This is going to happen on Thursday, when a Soyuz spaceship launching in the night before brings up another three crew members, causing a rare overlap between the expeditions. There have already been some preparations as the Soyuz which will carry three astronauts back to earth on Sunday has been moved to another docking port, but the real busyness will only start later this week.

So, who is up there, who is coming back, and most importantly, who is keeping contact not only with Houston and Baikonur, but also with us ground-dwellers via social networks? Unfortunately all of the Russian astronauts are not in the loop (yet?), but almost everbody from the USA, Europe and Japan is.

Coming back to earth on Sunday are Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano and Fyodor Yurchikhin. Parmitano has been walking firmly in the footsteps of Chris Hadfield and while there has not been much singing or guitar-slinging this time, the italian ESA astronaut has been keeping in touch with his own blog and on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, where he has been posted amazing photos from space and the station almost daily and written amazing articles. His colleague Karen Nyberg from NASA has limited herself to her Twitter-Account at @AstroKarenN, but she also posts regularly.

Staying until March of 2014 are Mike Hopkins from the USA and the Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky. Hopkins is also a regular on Twitter as @AstroIllini and always posts interesting photos and short status updates, but like Karen Nyberg he has no official accounts on either Google+ or Facebook.

The newcomers arriving on Thursday are Richard Mastracchio from the USA, Koichi Wakata from Japan and Mikhail Tyurin from Russia, all seasoned astronauts who have been in space multiple times. Both Mastracchio and Wakata have already been busily tweeting their preparations for their coming launch as @AstroRM and @Astro_Wakata and I’m sure they will continue once they have reached the station.

This unfortunately means that there will be no astronauts in space on Google+ for a while, but with the changeover from expedition 37 to 38 there will still be three active Twitter users in low earth orbit. Many of the coming ISS crew members are also on Twitter and sometimes even on other social networks – most notably italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who is currently writing a logbook about her experiences in preparing for her November 2014 launch on her Google+ account – she’s also on Twitter as @AstroSamantha. Other soon-to-launch astronauts on Twitter are Reid Wiseman (@Astro_Reid) and Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex), who are right now also tweeting from the launch preparations in Baikonur.

I am sure I have missed mentioning some of the astronauts in this article, but I have also made my Twitter Astronaut List public if anybody wants to follow just about everyone who is, was and is going to be in space. I may be updating this list semi-frequently, I’m sure I haven’t found all tweeting astronauts yet! With this list, you can follow all the action over the course of the week, but there’s also NASA TV, its Youtube Channel and ReelNASA with great excerpts and summaries.

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