The International Space Station has long been praised as an endeavor that transcends borders and national identities. Its diverse group of astronauts residing on in the international hub has received three new crew members, getting its population to six once again.
Using a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, as well as Oleg Novitiskiy from the Russian Federal Space Agency, arrived at the ISS on November 19 using the Rassvet docking module.
They were initially launched two days earlier, on November 17th, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Together with the Shane Kimbrough, another NASA astronaut and with cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov form the entire crew of Expedition 50. The previous three inhabitants of the ISS arrived in October.
According to a statement issued by NASA, the six members of the expedition will conduct various experiments in biology, physical science, biotechnology as well as Earth science. More specifically, one of the experiments consists in the recording of how the health and well-being of the crew are affected by different degrees of lighting. They are also studying how human tissue regeneration is affected by microgravity and the genetic traits of plants which were grown on the space station.
What makes this expedition especially noteworthy is that Peggy Whitson will be the oldest female astronaut to reside on the ISS at the age of 56-years old. If that wasn’t enough for female empowerment, she will also be the first woman to lead the ISS twice in all of its 16 years of history. She previously led Expedition 16 back in 2007 and was the first woman to do so. During her prolonged stay on the ISS, she will eventually surpass Jeff Williams as the American with the longest time in space, including among women.
During the expedition, the crew will receive in the near future three cargo deliveries with fuel, food and other supplies. Space agencies will send over new lithium batteries meant to replace the nickel-hydrogen ones which are currently used to store energy from the station’s solar panels. The installation of the batteries will require a new set of spacewalks in January.
Finally, the space station crew is scheduled to return to Earth in May 2017
Image credit: NASA