An American and a Russian blasted off to the International Space Station on the first two-crew spaceflight in 14 years.
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin launched on the Russian Soyuz MS-04 capsule on top of a Soyuz-FG rocket from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:13 a.m. EDT on Thursday, April 20.
They are bound to stay on the ISS for five months and join NASA’s Peggy Whitson, France’s Thomas Pesquet, and Russia’s Oleg Novitskiy.
Fischer and Yurchikhin were launched on a “fast-track” and six-orbit rendezvous, reported Space.com. They are expected to travel for six hours before docking the Soyuz at the ISS’ Poisk module at 9:23 a.m. EDT.
Fischer, who marks his first spaceflight, and veteran Yurchikhin were originally set to fly with a third member, Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency, in 2015. Roscosmos, however, decided to reduce the crew from three to two until Nauka, its multi-purpose lab module, is ready to be launched in 2018.
Nespoli will then join the two this coming July, when he flies to the ISS on a three-person Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.
"I know I speak for Fyodor when I say if we could figure out how to fit [our wives] Larisa and Elizabeth in that seat, that is who we would take with us,” said Fischer in jest at a media briefing on April 19, clarifying that their third seat will carry cargo for the ISS.
Yurchikhin marks his fifth space launch with this event. He logged 537 total days on a space shuttle mission in 2002. He also joined three long-duration ISS missions in 2007, 2010, and 2013.
Fischer, on the other hand, embarks on the Soyuz journey as his first flight since being selected as a NASA astronaut back in 2009.
Their Soyuz capsule is the 50th Soyuz to blast to the ISS since 2000.
ISS Delegation And Record Holders
Fischer will join Whitson on Monday, April 24 on a scheduled call with President Donald Trump.
On that day, Whitson — the first woman to command the ISS, the oldest woman in space at age 57, and the record-holder for the most spacewalks by a female — will have logged 535 days in space or longer than any other American astronaut. The record is currently held by Jeffrey Williams.
Whitson’s stay at the space outpost was also recently extended for an additional three months. She will return home on board a Soyuz capsule in September.
“I’ll be working aboard the @Space_Station longer than expected! This is where I make the greatest contribution so I’m looking forward to it,” the astronaut tweeted.
It was in April 2003 when a two-person crew last lifted off for the ISS. It involved NASA’s Ed Lu and Roscosmos’ Yuri Malechenko riding the Soyuz TMA-2 to man the outpost in the wake of the disastrous loss of the space shuttle Columbia two months earlier.
Fischer and Yurchikhin will assist in the hundreds of experiments underway on the ISS, as well as in overseeing Russian and American vehicles’ arrival and departure.