A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three crew members representing the US, Russia and France is on its way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, NASA said.
The new crew members – Peggy Whitson of NASA, Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) – will join Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko. In February, Whitson will become the first woman to command the space station twice. Her first tenure as commander was in 2007, when she became the first woman to hold this post.
The Expedition 50 crew members will spend over four months conducting more than 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
Upcoming research includes how lighting impacts the overall health and well-being of crew members, and how micro-gravity affects tissue regeneration in humans and the genetic properties of space-grown plants.
The crew members are scheduled to receive three cargo craft delivering several tonnes of food, fuel, supplies and research to the station, as well as new lithium ion batteries to replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays.
These will be installed during a series of spacewalks currently scheduled for January, NASA said.