A Russian Soyuz capsule, carrying an American astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut and an Italian astronaut, successfully arrived at the International Space Station on Friday for a five-month mission.
The Soyuz MS-05 manned spacecraft carrying NASA's Randy Bresnik, Russia's Sergey Ryazansky and Italy's Paolo Nespoli of European Space Agency was lifted off from the Russia-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan. According to reports, before docking at the space station, it travelled for six hours, orbiting Earth four times.
This three-man crew will join NASA's Jack Fischer, Peggy Whitson and Fyodor Yurchikhin who are already aboard the station. Their arrival will provide NASA four astronauts for the first time since April, for medical experiments, techonologu demonstrations and other research projects aboard the orbiting laboratory.
NASA has added up to the number of its astronauts as a response to Russia's decision to cut the number of its cosmonauts to two.
In total, four astronauts -- Peggy Whitson, Jack Fischer, Bresnik and Nespoli -- will now conduct experiments in the NASA-run segment, with Ryazansky joining Fyodor Yurchikhin to man the Russian section.
Talking about Bresnik, 49, last flew on the space shuttle in 2009 during a space station assembly mission. Ryazanskiy, 42, spent five-and-a-half months aboard the station in 2013-2014. Nespoli, 60, who is the most experienced among the three fliers is making his third space flight, having previously served on both space shuttle and space station crews.
Bresnik said at a pre-launch press conference that the extra member would help the crew conduct experiments and carry out repairs. “There is a ton of science to do,” he said ahead of the flight.
Praising the work Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin he said, “They’ve really got their groove on. They are working very, very well. They have good technique and tempo”.
250 experiments will be conducted by the astronauts at the orbiting lab including physical sciences, biology, technology development and human research.
By the end of next year, NASA intends to begin flying astronauts aboard space taxis under development by SpaceX and Boeing. Both spaceships have room for a fourth seat, bumping the station’s overall crew size to seven once Russia returns to full staffing.