Russia's Reliable Ride
Russian Soyuz spacecraft have provided access to space for 45 of the first 50 years of human spaceflight. They have been Russia's (previously the Soviet Union's) primary crew vehicle since the 1960s. This capsule is a fourth-generation version developed to meet NASA requirements for servicing the International Space Station (ISS).
This Soyuz module carried members of ISS Expedition 19/20 to the Space Station. This marked the first expansion of the standard ISS crew from three people to six. Expedition Commander, Gennady Padalka, and Flight Engineer, Michael Barratt were accompanied by Charles Simonyi, a private spaceflight participant.
The mission launched on March 26, 2009, from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Seven months later, the module returned to Earth with the Expedition 19/20 crew and Guy Laliberté—another private spaceflight participant.
Soyuz capsules designed to service the ISS received the designation TMA, which stands for Transportnyi Modifitsirovannyi Antropometricheskii (Transportation Modified Anthropometric).
The Descent Module you see here is one of three modules that make up the Soyuz spacecraft. It seats up to three cosmonauts or astronauts during launch and landing and is the only part that survives reentry to Earth.