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International Space Station Welcomes 3 New Crew Members

Nov 21, 2016 04:12 AM EST
Expedition 50 Qualification Exams
STAR CITY, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 25: In this handout provided by NASA, Expedition 50 crew members (L-R) ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson pose for a group photograph ahead of their final qualification exams on October 25, 2016 at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia.
(Photo : Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

The International Space Station (ISS) has received three new residents aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy from the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully arrived at the ISS on Nov. 19 at 4:58 p.m. (9:58 GMT), docking the Soyuz spacecraft to the station's Rassvet module.

"Capture confirmed," a NASA commentator announced during a live broadcast aired on the agency's television and website.

The new crewmembers arrived two days after they launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, Nov. 17. They will be joining the Expedition 50 crew, which is composed of NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, who arrived at the orbiting lab in October. Together, the six crew members will contribute to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, NASA said.

One of the experiments to be conducted would be recording how lighting could impact the overall health and well-being of ISS crew and how the microgravity environment could affect tissue regeneration in humans and the genetic properties of plants grown in space, reports.

During the mission, 56-year-old Whiston will be breaking a number of records. She is currently the oldest female astronaut to reach the space station. At the start of Expedition 51 in February, Whitson will also become the first woman to lead the ISS twice throughout its 16 years in orbit. In 2007, she served as commander of Expedition 16 and had been the first woman to hold the post.

Whitson's journey to the ISS and back to Earth will also extend her existing record as the first woman to have the longest time in space. With the additional 179 days for Expedition 50/51, she will also hold the record for the most time in space by an American, surpassing current holder Jeff Williams of NASA.

Apart from science experiments, the crew members will also receive three cargo deliveries consisting of food, fuel and supplies. The crew will also receive new lithium batteries as replacement for the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used in storing energy generated by the station's solar arrays.

The new batteries will be installed in January, where the world will witness another series of spacewalks. The crew will return to Earth in May 2017.

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