A trio of new crew members are soaring toward the International Space Station
Liftoff of the Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft came at 5:17 p.m. EDT Sept. 12 (3:17 a.m. Sept. 13 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Russian space agency Roscosmos will join the current three-person crew of the orbiting space lab when the craft reaches the ISS at 10:57 p.m. EDT, following a journey of just under six hours.
The arriving crew will be welcomed on board by Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and flight engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency.
The new crew members replace NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, who left the space station for a safe return to Earth on Sept. 2.
The newly bolstered crew — whose respective tenures comprise ISS Expeditions 53 and 54 — will work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotech and other scientific areas.
Boeing and SpaceX hold NASA contracts to begin ISS astronaut shuttles in late 2018 or early 2019, ending a longtime reliance on Russian crew shuttles.