An all veteran multinational trio of astronauts and cosmonauts rocketed to orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule and safely arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) after a fast track rendezvous on Friday, July 28.
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) docked at the orbiting outpost at 5:54 p.m. EDT (2154 GMT) Friday just six hours after departing our Home Planet.
The three crewmates launched aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan during a typically hot mid-summers night at 9:41 p.m. Baikonur time, or 11:41 a.m. EDT, 1541 GMT, as the booster and Baikonur moved into the plane of the space station’s orbit. They blasted to space from the same pad as Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
The entire launch sequence aboard the Soyuz rocket performed flawlessly and delivered the Soyuz capsule to its targeted preliminary orbit flowing by the planned opening of the vehicles solar arrays and antennas.
Following a rapid series of orbit raising maneuvers, the Soyuz reached the ISS after 4 orbits and six hours to successfully complete all the rendezvous and docking procedures.
The Soyuz docked at the Earth-facing Russian Rassvet module as the spaceships were flying some 250 mi (400 km) over Germany.
Following the standard pressurization and leak checks, the hatches between the spacecraft and station were opened from inside the ISS at about 9:45 p.m. EDT.
The new trio of Bresnik, Ryazanskiy and Nespoli then floated one by one from the Soyuz into the station and restored the outpost to a full strength crew of six humans.
The veteran space flyers join Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer of NASA who are already serving aboard.
Thus begins Expedition 52 aboard the million pound orbiting science complex.
This is the second space flight for both Bresnik and Ryazanskiy and the third for Nespoli.
Bresnik previously flew to the space station as a member of the STS-129 space shuttle Atlantis mission in November 2009. The 10 day mission delivered two Express Logistics Carriers (ELC racks) to the space station as part of approximately 30,000 pounds of replacement parts.
Bresnik performed two spacewalks for a total of 11 hours and 50 minutes during the STS-129 mission. He is slated to take command of the ISS as a member of Expedition 53.
The new Expedition 52 crew will spend a four and a half month stint aboard the station and continue over 250 ongoing science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
Bresnik, Ryazanskiy and Nespoli are slated to stay aboard until returning to Earth in December.
Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin are in the home stretch of their mission and will retun to Earth in September. Shortly after their departure, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will launch on the next Soyuz from Kazakhstan to join the Expedition 53 crew.
Whitson is the most experienced US astronaut with time in space. Her record setting cumulative time in space will exceed 600 days and include a 9 month stay on this flight upon her return to Earth.
She most recently launched to the ISS last year on Nov 17, 2016 aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This is her 3rd long duration stay aboard the station.
Whitson also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut. Altogether she has accumulated 53 hours and 23 minutes of EVA time over eight spacewalks.
The newly-expanded Expedition 52 crew expect to welcome a pair of unmanned US cargo ships carrying new research experiments and supplies, namely the SpaceX Dragon as soon as August and Orbital ATK Cygnus a month or two later, on NASA-contracted commercial resupply missions.
The SpaceX CRS-12 mission will carry investigations ”the crew will work on including a study developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation of the pathology of Parkinson’s disease to aid in the development of therapies for patients on Earth. The crew will use the special nature of microgravity in a new lung tissue study to advance understanding of how stem cells work and pave the way for further use of the microgravity environment in stem cell research. Expedition astronauts also will assemble and deploy a microsatellite investigation seeking to validate the concept of using microsatellites in low-Earth orbit to support critical operations, such as providing lower-cost Earth imagery in time-sensitive situations such as tracking severe weather and detecting natural disasters.”
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Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight – www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter