World Bulletin / News Desk
Two NASA astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut were successfully launched into space Wednesday and are headed to the International Space Station.
The three new arrivals will bring the total number of crew members at the station to six, the standard amount.
The Americans are Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold. The pair is being joined by Russian Oleg Artemyev on a Russian manufactured Soyuz spacecraft. The three astronauts were launched from Kazakhstan at 1744 GMT and are scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Friday.
Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov, a Russian, is currently leading the ISS. He is joined by NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai of Japan. Shkaplerov, Tingle and Kanai, who have been alone in the ISS since February, are scheduled to return in June. Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev are supposed to return in August.
“The crew members will spend more than five months conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development,” NASA said in a statement.
Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev are all space veterans – the two Americans have both flown on space shuttles, although this will be their first stay on the ISS. Artemyev lived on the orbiting lab for five months in 2014.
The launch occurred without incident. About nine minutes after launch, the rockets thrusting the Soyuz MS-08 ship skyward shut down and the spacecraft began gliding on its own.
“The crew's mood is festive,” Artemyev told mission control as the ship neared the limits of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Soon after they arrive, the three new ISS occupants will begin a series of experiments ranging from observing how crystals grow in space to measuring how living in space impacts the amount of red blood cells in the astronauts’ blood.