Two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut have started their journey towards the International Space Station. A Russian Soyuz space vehicle blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1: 44 p.m. EDT (GMT-4; 11:44 p.m. local time) carrying the three ISS crew members to space. The name of the two NASA astronauts are Drew Fuestul and Ricky Arnold and, the only Roscosmos cosmonaut is Oleg Artemyev. All the three are veterans in their respective field. Artemyev is the commander of the Soyuz MS-08/54S rocket and is at the controls in the center seat of the spacecraft.

Artemyev is flanked on the left by flight engineer Drew Fuestul and on the right by flight engineer Ricky Arnold. Artmyev had already stayed aboard ISS during a 2014 mission and participated in two spacewalks totaling 12 hours and 34 minutes. Arnold also flew a single mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 2009 and was involved in two spacewalks. Fuestul had also flow to space earlier and has spent the highest time in spacewalks. He was involved in servicing the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009 and, during his 2011 mission, he helped finish the construction of the ISS.

All the three veteran astronauts have a combined 10 spacewalks to their name and are EVA experts. On Wednesday, the Soyuz rocket, carrying the three ISS crew members, started its journey towards the space station. Two minutes after the liftoff, the four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters of Soyuz got separated and fell away after pushing the rocket out of the thick lower atmosphere. The rocket entered directly into the plane of the space station’s orbit and this phenomenon is called rendezvous.

After the rendezvous with the space station’s plane, the rocket will then attempt to get docked with the space station’s upper Poisk model. The docking is scheduled to take place at 3: 42 p.m. on Friday. From inside the Soyuz, Artemyev said, “Everything is fine on board. “We’re doing excellent, the crew’s mood is festive.”

Before the launch, Fuestul praised the capabilities of Soyuz and said, It’s just amazing. The spacecraft is well designed, it’s got a lot of great redundant features to it and it has some incredible capabilities. Its beauty is in its simplicity. It’s been a thrill to learn how well engineered that vehicle is.” Once they reach ISS, the trio will join already present space station crew members Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the JAXA. The new ISS crew members will spend around five months aboard ISS and will be involved in various EVAs and spacewalks.


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