The Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft with three astronauts on board reportedly lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at around 07:12 EDT (1112 UTC) on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The spacecraft is carrying European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA’s Serena Auñón-Chancellor and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev en route to the International Space Station (ISS).
If everything goes as per plan, the trio will reach the ISS on Friday, June 8. The astronauts will remain aboard until December.
They will join NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Oleg Artemyev, of the Russian space agency Roscosmo on the orbiting lab. Their arrival will bring the space lab up to its full complement of six crewmembers.
Astronaut Alexander Gerst will act as a flight engineer until October and after that, he will take over command of the space station from the US’s Andrew Feustel. He will be the second European to hold the position after Belgian Frank de Winne in 2009.
According to NASA, the six astronauts will perform about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, human research, Earth science, physical sciences, and technology development in the coming months. The next launch scheduled for the ISS is expected to be SpaceX’s uncrewed Dragon resupply mission that is expected to launch on June 28 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Notably, three of the space station’s crew members Anton Shkaplerov from Russia, Scott Tingle from the US, and Norishige Kanai from Japan recently returned to Earth after spending 168 days in low-Earth orbit aboard the ISS. The trio returned back on a Russian Soyuz space capsule that landed safely on Sunday at around 8:39 am ET (6:39 pm Kazakh time) in the steppes of Kazakhstan.
The astronauts have also brought along with them a football that will likely be used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Moscow. FIFA is yet to confirm the information.