Rus­sian space­ship de­liv­ers three astro­nauts to space sta­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Rus­sia’s Soyuz space­craft ar­rived at the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion on Satur­day, car­ry­ing a Euro­pean, a Rus­sian and an Amer­i­can as­tro­naut for a six-month mis­sion at the or­bit­ing out­post. ”Cap­ture con­firmed,” said a NASA com­men­ta­tor as the space­craft docked at the ISS at 4:58 pm (2158 GMT), US space agency live tele­vi­sion im­ages showed. The trio-French­man Thomas Pes­quet, Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Oleg Novit­skiy and Amer­i­can as­tro­naut Peggy Whit­son-launched from the Baikonur Cos­mod­rome in Kaza­khstan on Thurs­day.

Pes­quet, 38, a rookie as­tro­naut and am­a­teur sax­o­phone player, is the first French na­tional to be sent to the ISS by the Euro­pean Space Agency since 2008. Novit­skiy, 45, a Rus­sian Air Force pi­lot and decade-long vet­eran of the space agency Roscos­mos, is mak­ing his sec­ond trip to the ISS. Whit­son, 56, is an ex­pe­ri­enced vet­eran and bio­chem­istry ex­pert who will break records with this space mis­sion, in­clud­ing the ti­tle of the most days in space by a US as­tro­naut.

She is sched­uled to sur­pass NASA as­tro­naut Jeff Wil­liams’s 534 days on April 24. In Fe­bru­ary, Whit­son will be­come the first woman to com­mand the space sta­tion twice. She pre­vi­ously com­manded the sta­tion in 2007, when she be­came the first woman to hold this post, NASA said. Their ar­rival means the staff at the or­bit­ing out­post goes back up to six. Al­ready staffing the ISS are Rus­sians An­drei Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov, and Amer­i­can Shane Kim­brough. But even af­ter a two-day jour­ney in cramped quar­ters, the three new ar­rivals were not al­lowed to exit the space­craft right away. More than two and a half hours of checks were needed to make sure the seal was air­tight be­tween the sta­tion and Soyuz. When the hatches fi­nally opened at 7:40 pm (0040 GMT yes­ter­day) the crew was all smiles as they floated into the space sta­tion-first Novit­skiy, then Pes­quet and fi­nally Whit­son-and ex­changed hugs with their crew­mates.

“Watch­ing you, we could not be more proud,” said NASA ad­min­is­tra­tor Charles Bolden, speak­ing to the crew from Earth. Rus­sia’s Soyuz cap­sules of­fer the only way for global astro­nauts to reach the space sta­tion since the Amer­i­can space shut­tle pro­gram was re­tired in 2011. Astro­nauts pay more than $71 mil­lion per seat for a ride on the Soyuz, which car­ries three peo­ple at a time. Pri­vate in­dus­tries in­clud­ing SpaceX and Boe­ing are de­sign­ing space­craft to once again ferry astro­nauts from US soil. Their first flights are not ex­pected un­til late next year or in 2018. Hu­mans have lived con­tin­u­ously at the space sta­tion for more than 15 years. More than 200 peo­ple from 18 coun­tries have vis­ited the mi­cro­grav­ity lab­o­ra­tory that cir­cles Earth at a dis­tance of about 250 miles (400 kilo­me­ters), NASA said.

SPACE: This im­age ob­tained Novem­ber 19, 2016 courtesy of NASA TV shows NASA as­tro­naut Peggy Whit­son (left), Oleg Novit­skiy (cen­ter) of the Rus­sian space agency Roscos­mos, and French­man Thomas Pes­quet (right) of ESA (Euro­pean Space Agency) af­ter dock­ing at the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.—AFP

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