With a spectacular night launch, the remainder of the Expedition 26 crew are now headed to the International Space Station on board a Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft. NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:09 p.m. EST Wednesday (1909 UTC and 1:09 a.m. local in Kazakhstan) on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Video from inside the capsule showed the crew riding comfortably during their ascent.
The trio are scheduled to dock to the station’s Rassvet docking port at 3:12 p.m EST onFriday, Dec. 17. Just in time for the holidays, they will join Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, already on board the ISS.
You can watch the docking on NASA TV, beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST Coverage of the hatches opening and a welcoming ceremony aboard the station will begin at 5:30 p.m.
With a full compliment of six, Expedition 26 will be busy with scientific research and regular maintenance, but there will also be two Russian-segment spacewalks, and a variety of visiting resupply ships: a Japanese HTV cargo ship will arrive at the end of January, a Russian Progress re-supply ship will also come just before, hopefully, space shuttle Discovery arrives in early February — given the repairs of the external tank go well, and then a European Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV, arrives at the end of February.
After that, The shuttle Endeavour is scheduled launch in early April along with another Progress later that month.