New crew arrives for latest mission aboard International Space Station

24 Nov 2014

The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft approaches the International Space Station. Image via NASA

A three-person crew led by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will live and work for five months in the weightless research centre aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The trio had yesterday blasted off aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and successfully docked with the ISS after a journey of a little under six hours.

Joining Cristoforetti, a former pilot with the Italian Air Force, will be Russian Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov and US space agency NASA astronaut Terry Virts. They will undergo a series of scientific experiments as part of the mission dubbed, ‘Futura’, which is very much being led by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Cristoforetti.

The mission’s parameters are specifically for the development of science and education among the younger generations and will work on experiments in biology, physical science and human physiology, as well as radiation research and technology demonstrations.

(From left) Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Yelena Serova, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Terry Virts, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev. Image via NASA

According to the ESA, students on Earth will be able to investigate the process of photosynthesis by blowing carbon dioxide on samples of Spirulina algae, one of the first living forms on our planet, while Cristoforetti will help children to understand the important role of recycling carbon dioxide to produce food and oxygen through video lessons.

Speaking of her reason for choosing the name Futura (Italian for ‘future’) for the mission, Cristoforetti said, “I derive a strong sense of purpose from being part of the space community, as we build a future in space for human beings. The name Futura for me is about our collective journey towards that future.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic