Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have welcomed three new crew members this morning, who arrived at the orbiting space lab hours after having blasted off in a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Flight engineer Karen Nyberg of NASA, Soyuz commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and flight engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) joined flight engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA, and commander Pavel Vinogradov and flight engineer Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, when the hatch between the Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS opened at 12.41am EDT (5.41am GMT), US space agency NASA said.
The Soyuz carrying the trio of astronauts docked with the station’s Rassvet module at 10.10pm EDT (3.10am GMT), completing its journey from the launch pad to the ISS in less than six hours.
Now, the crew of the ISS is facing five spacewalks to prepare the complex for the installation of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module in December, as well as a 9 November spacewalk to take the Olympic torch outside, NASA said.
The crew will also welcome the arrival of several visiting cargo vehicles: ESA’s Albert Einstein Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 in June, a Russian Progress cargo craft in July, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 in August.
In addition, the astronauts will carry out research and conduct various scientific and technological experiments.
Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin, who have been living and working on the ISS since late March, are scheduled to return to Earth in September. Later that month, three other astronauts are to arrive at the ISS to replace them.
Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano are scheduled to return to Earth in November.