The Expedition 21 crew is comprised of the newly arrived Flight Engineers NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Cosmonaut Maxim Suraev; and four Expedition 20 crew who remained on the ISS and transitioned to Expedition 21 crewmembers. These are Flight Engineers NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Robert Thirsk, Cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, and the European astronaut Frank De Winne. At the beginning of this new expedition, De Winne transitioned from an Expedition 20 Flight Engineer to the Expedition 21 Commander. He is the first astronaut outside of the U.S. and Russian space agencies to assume this role.
Williams and Suraev will remain on the ISS through Expeditions 21 and 22. Thirsk, Romanenko, and De Winne will remain on the ISS until the end of Expedition 21, which is scheduled for early December of 2009. After De Winne leaves, Williams will assume the role of ISS Commander. Stott will return home aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis at the conclusion of the STS-129 mission. She is the last astronaut expected to use the shuttle for transportation to or from the station.
The space tourist, Canadian Guy Laliberté, flew to the ISS aboard Soyuz TMA-16 and returned ten days later on Soyuz TMA-14 under a commercial agreement between the Russian Federal Space Agency and Space Adventures, Ltd. Laliberté, from Québec City, Canada, is the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of the entertainment troupe Cirque de Soleil. He collaborated with other artists in a performance from Earth and space to advocate for water conservation and to draw attention to his efforts to guarantee access to clean water worldwide.
Amidst the transfer of crews, handovers, and entertainment, many objectives are to be accomplished. During Expeditions 21 and 22 new research facilities will be setup and activated. These include the Fluids Integrated Rack and Materials Science Research Rack 1 which were delivered to the station by the STS-128 shuttle mission. They will also activate the new Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT); unberth the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle when its supply mission is complete; and welcome a new Russian docking module, two shuttle crews, and a Progress resupply ship.
Four of the crew will depart at near the end of Expedition 21. This leaves a two man crew, Williams and Suraev, to maintain the station and conduct science on board for two weeks before the arrival of the Expedition 22 crew: Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut, T.J. Creamer and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency space flight veteran Soichi Noguchi. They are scheduled to launch from Baikonur in December 2009 aboard the Soyuz TMA-17. These Expedition 21 and 22 crews overlap on the ISS until March 2010, when Williams and Suraev return to Earth. The Expedition 22 crew remains on board until May 2010.