Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of Russian Federal Space Agency have been on the International Space Station since March 28th. On Wednesday NASA astronauts came to the rescue.
According to NASA, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano were welcomed at 12:14 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time when the station opened. The Russian Soyuz originally docked at 10:10 p.m. That completed an almost six hour trip after it took off at 4:31 p.m. EDT.
The Soyuz was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. With the NASA astronauts coming to the rescue the station now has a full six member crew.
The station will operate with a full six person crew until September which is when Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin will return to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft that they arrived in.
Their departure will mark the start of Expedition 37 where Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will maintain the station until three more flight engineers arrive in late September. When the NASA astronauts arrive the station will operate with a six person crew until November when Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano are scheduled to return.
In their time there the crew will conduct five space walks to ready the station for the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module in December and a November 9th spacewalk to take the Olympic torch outside. They will also welcome the arrival of several visiting cargo vehicles in the ESA’s “Albert Einstein” Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 in June, a Russian Progress cargo craft in July and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 in August. In addition to those the station will conduct research and technology experiments.
One of the studies that will be done on the station is the Hip Quantitative Computed Tomography experiment, which will evaluate countermeasures to prevent the loss of bone density that is seen during long-duration space missions.
In addition the station’s crew will research into how plants grow, in hopes to create more efficient crops on Earth and to learn how future crews could grow their own food in space. Also, the crew will test a new portable gas monitor to help analyze the environment inside the station, along with continue fuel and combustion experiments that past crews have undertaken. Studying how fire behaves in space will have a direct impact on future spaceflight and could lead to cleaner and more efficient combustion engines.
This is Nyberg’s second mission as she was part of the 2008 STS-124 crew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery that delivered and installed a pressurized module portion of the Kibo laboratory and its robotic arm.
As for Yurchikhin, this is his fourth spaceflight as his first mission to the station was in October 2002 aboard space shuttle Atlantis. He also participated in two long term missions aboard the station as apart of Expedition 15 crew member in 2007 and then as a member of Expedition 24/25 in 2010. Yurchikhin has performed five spacewalks and spent more than 371 days in space.
Finally, Parmitano, who is an Italian Air Force Major, is making his first spaceflight. He was selected as an astronaut candidate by ESA in 2008 and was certified as an astronaut in 2011.
With NASA astronauts to the rescue it’s all systems go for the station.