A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying three veteran space fliers including two NASA astronauts and one a Russian cosmonaut blasted off and shot into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Americans Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian Oleg Artemyev are scheduled to arrive at the orbiting lab on Friday, March 23. The ISS is currently occupied by cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, commander of the current Expedition 55, and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai.
“The orbiting trio continues to ensure the station is flying in tip-top shape while conducting advanced space science to benefit humans on Earth and in space,” a NASA blog post read.
Feustel is the Flight Engineer for Expedition 55 and he will also serve as Commander for the space agency’s Expedition 56. The crew members will spend around five months conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
As per the mission summary, this trip marks NASA’s Expedition 55-56, in which Feustel and Arnold will conduct a spacewalk to replace some cameras and install wireless antennas on the station’s exterior on Thursday, March 29. The researchers will also study Earth atmospherics, materials’ responses to space environments, the effects of microgravity on bone marrow, and biological samples’ responses to simulated gravity.
While Shkaplerov, Tingle, and Kanai will remain aboard the station until June 2018, Feustel, Arnold, and Artemyev will return to Earth in August to close out their 159 days voyage.
Notably, the research work conducted aboard ISS is very important for the future of space exploration, as it will allow astronomers to better understand how things behave in space. Knowing the space condition is critical for future manned space missions.