Two days after launching from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, three crew members from the United States, Russia, and Japan have arrived safely at the International Space Station located in Earth's low orbit. They were carried to outer space by the Russian spacecraft Soyuz.
Scott Tingle of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Anton Shkaplerov of Russia's Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency took off from Kazakhstan on Dec. 17 at 2:21 a.m. EST and docked to the station's Rassvet module at 3:43 a.m. on Dec. 19.
A coverage of the vessel's docking was aired Dec. 19 at 3:00 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency's official website. Another coverage followed at 5:00 a.m., showing hatch opening between the Soyuz and station.
Additional Crew Members Completes Expedition 54 Team
The arrival of the multinational crew members rounds out Expedition 54, which requires the six members to man the station. Originally, expeditions consisted only of 3 person-crew but the number was gradually increased to six in 2010.
Over the next six months, Tingle, Shkaplerov, and Kanai will join the expedition's commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and other crew members Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA in conducting around 250 scientific investigations related to the fields of biology, human research, physical sciences, technology, and Earth science.
Such investigations are going to highlight a demonstration on the benefits of creating fiber optic filaments in an environment with low gravity level; a study on vital structures for designing advanced optical materials and electronics; and an examination of a drug compound and delivery system that prevents the breakdown of muscles while in space or over long period of inactivity on Earth like extended bed rest.
One of the tools the crew members would use is a Space Debris Sensor that was delivered recently to the station by a capsule named the Dragon. It allows the close inspection of small space debris and was sent as part of an effort to clean up space junk. Its arrival was announced on Dec. 2.
Misurkin, Vande Hei, and Acaba are staying on board the facility until February 2018 while Tingle, Shkaplerov, and Kanai are slated to head back to Earth by April 2018.
Station Crew Celebrates Christmas In Space
Meanwhile, the crew of Expedition 54 will continue to celebrate the season despite being in outer space. A day before leaving for space, Shkaplerov shared to the press that they are bringing Christmas gifts from families and friends, including a tree on the Soyuz. He said the gifts will be opened by American crew members on Dec. 25 while the Russians on board will unwrap theirs on Dec. 31.
Gifts were also included in the 4,800-pound cargo delivered by SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the ISS on Dec. 17.