Three new crew members of the International Space Station have successfully arrived in low-Earth orbit. The NASA astronauts — two Americans and one Russian — will serve as flight engineers for ISS Expedition 55/56 for five months.
After a two-day journey, the Soyuz MS-08/54S space capsule that launched from Russia's launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan on March 21, has successfully docked at the space station at 10:40 p.m., Friday.
Newly arrived astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos, joined resident ISS crew members Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, Scott Tingle of NASA, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The arrival of the three new crew members completes the personnel of the space station's Expedition 55.
Feustel, 52, will be in command of the space station starting early June. He will replace Shkaplerov.
The Soyuz docked at the upper Poisk module of the space station after an automated approach monitored by Artemyev.
Hatches of the two spacecrafts opened two hours after docking and Expedition 55 crew members immediately welcomed their new crew mates.
Upon the arrival of Feustel and his team, all the six station crew members conducted a ceremonial video conference with senior space managers from NASA and their families stationed at a space mission control center near Moscow.
"You guys look great on orbit. We can hardly wait for you to get busy and start doing lots of great work for us," says Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's director of spaceflight, when he addressed the crew during the video conference.
Feustel said they counted 50 hours from take off until their arrival at the space station.
"I can tell you it was a long ride. We had a nice time, just the three of us, it was relaxing, just enjoyed circling around the Earth and seeing all the beautiful sights. We're all looking forward to getting to work." according to Feustel, who earlier revealed that he has mild fear of heights.
The trio will rest on March 24, and on March 29, Feustel and Arnold will have their spacewalk outside the space station. They will install external wireless communication antennas and replace a camera that captures images of the Earth from the ISS. They will also retrieve cables for orbiting station's coolant system.
Feustel, Arnold, and Artemyev will return to Earth in August also via the Soyuz.
According to NASA, the Expedition 55/56 crew onboard the space station will work on important experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science. They will also oversee the arrival and departure of unmanned cargo spacecraft carrying supplies and science equipment to and from Earth.