Soyuz Rocket Heads To International Space Station With 3 Veteran Astronauts

The Russian Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome pad in Kazakhstan at 11:41 a.m. EDT on July 28 carrying three veteran astronauts en route to the International Space Station.

MS-05 docked six hours later at the space station's Rassvet module and, after two hours of making sure that everything was sealed tightly in place, the current ISS crew — Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and flight engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer — opened the hatches for cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy and astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli.

The three proceeded to the Russian Zvezda module for the post-docking video call to NASA and their respective families before getting started with their five months' worth of work.

Meet Expedition 53

The ISS crew is supposed to be split evenly between the Russian and U.S. orbital segments but Russia's decision to reduce spending by limiting its crew allowed the USOS to send another astronaut for Expedition 53 via the Soyuz spacecraft.

Heading the three-man crew is Ryazanskiy, who happens to be the first scientist cosmonaut to perform as a Soyuz commander. He also has a doctorate in biomedicine so his expertise will surely come in handy since the USOS crew is currently working on cancer research in microgravity. Ryazanskiy has actually gone on two space flights, and this is already his second long-duration mission aboard the ISS, the first one being a 166-day mission aboard Soyuz TMA-10M in 2013.

Under his command are fellow space veterans — astronauts Bresnik and Nespoli — who will both be stationed at the USOS.

This is Bresnik's first long-duration mission but he already has a spacewalk under his belt from 2009. Apart from the scientific work ahead, Bresnik reveals that he is looking forward to watching the total solar eclipse from the ISS on Aug. 21.

Bresnik was really happy about how everything went smoothly from launch to docking that he took a moment to thank the Russian engineers involved in the mission during the video call.

"That was the most amazing, smooth rocket ride I've ever had. I would really like to say thanks on behalf of the three of us to our Russian colleagues and our Russian partners who made such a beautiful vehicle," he expressed.

ESA astronaut Nespoli, on the other hand, is already on his second long-duration mission aboard the ISS — the first one being a 160-day mission in 2010 — but he already helped install a module for the station in 2007, just not as an official member of the crew.

Increased Productivity For Science

The three new ISS crew are expected to work with Expedition 52 astronauts Whitson, Yurchikhin and Fischer on the hundreds of biology, biotechnology, Earth science, and physical science research and experiments lined up for them.

"I am excited about having a full complement of people up here who can really utilize this amazing laboratory. I cannot wait ... for the discoveries that we make together," Fischer said in an interview.

They will be working together on research and experiments until Sept. 3, when Yurchikhin, Whitson, and Fischer are scheduled to return to Earth.

Bresnik is also looking forward to doing some repairs aboard the station to further increase productivity.

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