Following a successful launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS). The three man crew will join those already aboard the ISS to complete the station’s six-person Expedition 53 crew. The station’s crew is rotated in threes to ensure there is always at least a partial crew complement aboard.
The crew launched aboard the Russian Soyuz-FG launcher and are currently en route to the ISS aboard a Soyuz MS-06 crew capsule. The capsule is now on a six-hour fast track to the station and is expected to dock at 02:57 GMT on Wednesday. The rest of the mission schedule includes the hatches between Soyuz and ISS opening at 04:40 GMT. NASA’s coverage of the ISS Expedition 53 welcome ceremony will begin at 04:00 GMT on their 24-hour “Public-Education” YouTube live stream.
The crew additions to the ISS are Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba from NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos. Acaba will be filling the seat left vacant following Russia’s decision to downsize its presence aboard the Station. The three new crew members will be joining Expedition 53 commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy and Paolo Nespoli, the sole Italian aboard.
On their mission, NASA officials stated, “The crew members of Expedition 53-54 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the International Space Station, humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory”. Vande Hei, Acaba, and Misurkin will remain aboard the station through Expedition 54 returning February 2018.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls