The International Space Station now has a full crew once more, with the arrival of two US astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut on Wednesday, after a mere six-hour flight.
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying the new crew members launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:17 a.m. local time, carrying Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and flight engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA. The spacecraft landed at the ISS at 8:55 a.m., Reuters reports.
Misurkin, speaking through a translator, radioed Russian flight controllers, announced, “Contact! We have mechanical contact. And we have docking mechanism engaged,” as the Soyuz was captured by the Poisk docking port, according to CBS.
The fast-track transit is the beginning of a five-month mission for the crew members. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba join Expedition 53 commander Randy Bresnik from NASA, Sergey Ryazanskiy of Russia and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency aboard the space station. They have been in orbit since July. The expanded US team is dedicated to carrying out research in their segment of the lab.
For rookie Vande Hei, it’s an exciting time.
I’m really looking forward to getting to work,
he said. “I’m really excited to live with these gentlemen and the crew that’s going to be on the station when we arrive and the crew that we’re going to receive later in our mission. Frankly, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the view is like.”
Acaba, a former high school teacher and Peace Corps volunteer who own the additional seat on the spacecraft, had only six months to get ready. He said, “Before I started (training), NASA and all the international partners got together, they put together a really nice plan on what’s required for me to be safe and also to execute the mission. It’s (been) busy, but fun.”
Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will remain at the ISS until February 26, during which they will receive supplies from an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship, two SpaceX Dragon freighters, two Progress ships, and are expected to conduct up to three spacewalks for maintenance and service purposes.