American astronaut Bill Shepherd will launch a new era in space history Oct. 31, when he lifts off in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan en route to his new home aboard the International Space Station. If all goes well on this and future missions, Oct. 30, 2000, will be the last day on which there were no human beings in space.

Shepherd, of Babylon, NY, is commander of the three-person Expedition 1 crew, the first of several crews that will live aboard the space station for periods of about four months. He will be accompanied by cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko, commander of the Soyuz, and flight engineer Sergei Krikalev on this historic journey.

Aboard the station, the crew will help with assembly tasks as new elements, including the U.S. Laboratory, are added to the orbiting outpost. They will also conduct early science experiments.

Shepherd, a 1971 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Navy Seal, dreamed of becoming a pilot, but did not meet the eyesight requirements. He became a Navy diver instead, applied for the astronaut program in 1980 and was accepted in 1984. 

In three space shuttle missions, he has logged 440 hours in space.  He flew as a mission specialist on space shuttle missions STS-27 in 1988, STS-41 in 1990 and STS-52 in 1992. To prepare for this mission, he has trained extensively in the U.S. and Russia.
The International Space Station is the most ambitious engineering project in world history. The program involves 16 partner countries, including the U.S., Russia, Japan, the 11 members of the European Space Agency, and Brazil, who have joined together to build the most capable space laboratory ever constructed. When complete in 2006, the International Space Station will be about the size of a three-bedroom house and will be home to up to seven astronauts at a time, who will work on experiments running the gamut of scientific disciplines.