On Tuesday, A Russian Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 P.M. Eastern time with three new International Space Station crew members, intended to replace those that returned home just over a week ago.
The new team, composed of two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut, includes both NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba and Roscosmos’ Alexander Misurkin.
Image Credit: NASA Television
Following a six-hour trip through space, the Soyuz spacecraft docked with the Poisk module at approximately 10:55 P.M. Eastern time on Wednesday. After some preliminary safety checks, the hatch opened, and the new crew members safely joined existing crew members Paolo Nespoli, Randy Bresnik, and Sergey Riazanski.
The latest arrivals will remain on the International Space Station for a little over five months before returning home. Of course, those who were on the International Space Station before Wednesday’s latest docking will be the first to leave, as space agencies regularly rotate crews.
Until that time, the six crew members currently on board the International Space Station will conduct a plethora of space experiments to push humanity’s knowledge forward. Citing NASA, there are “hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science” on the to-do list.
A statement from NASA reveals how some of the experiments could help find ways to stop muscle atrophy, test new bone repair methods with synthetic materials, and attempt the manufacture of fiber optic filaments in space. Other experiments will inevitably ensue, but details on those projects are not yet well-known.
Worthy of note, Tuesday’s Soyuz launch was somewhat historic because it was the first time two American astronauts have launched together from the Baikonur cosmodrome in over seven years.
A video showcasing the rocket launch is available on NASA's YouTube channel, which is embedded below:
Moreover, you can watch the docking here:
In 2018, NASA will bring crewed space launches back to American soil with the help of both Boeing and SpaceX for the first time since the Space Shuttle era. Notably, this move will reduce NASA's dependence on Russia for getting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Great times are ahead.