After a two-day-long trip from Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station, two NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut finally arrived at the ISS in the low-earth orbit located at the altitude of 400 Kms from the Earth’s surface. Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, NASA astronauts, and Oleg Artemyev, a Russian cosmonaut from Roscosmos finally docked their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft to the ISS’s Upper Poisk module on March 23 at 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT). The trio will complete a five-month mission on the space station where they will be responsible for conducting various scientific experiments along with few sports.
The trio was launched on a Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan under the call sign “Hawaii” on Wednesday, March 21 on the ISS’s 55/56 expedition. After 2 days of transiting over the globe, the trio finally reached the space station and docked with the upper Poisk module on March 23. The trio finally joined three other astronauts aboard the space station which includes Anton Shkaplerov (Station commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut), Norishige Kanai (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and NASA’s Scott Tingle who boarded on Expedition 54-55 on December 19.
According to the space agencies, the trio will don the role of flight engineers until early June when finally, Tingle and Kanai will board the Soyuz MS-07 module back to the Earth. The command of the space station will be passed on to Shkaplerov and Feustel who will be joined by NASA’s astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Roscosmos’ Sergey Prokopyev, and ESA’s Alexander Gerst who are scheduled for launch aboard Expedition 56-57 in June 2018.
According to the manifest published by NASA, the Expedition 55/56 will cover scientific experiments ranging from physical science, biotechnology, Earth science, biology, etc where hundreds of different experiments will be conducted including the experiment to test effects of space over different materials that will further help the scientists to manufacture satellites based suitable for the space environment.
Expedition 55/56 includes four spacewalks of which, the first will be conducted on March 29 when Arnold and Feustel will perform a spacewalk to install external wireless antennas to efficiently route data from science experiments mounted in the exterior as well as it will also include retrieving jumper cables for the ammonia coolant system of the station. Later, both Arnold and Feustel will replace the HD cameras that have been contributing towards wonderful views of the Earth.
What’s more? Feustel and Artemyev are planning to challenge the fellow crew for different sports. According to the statement made by Artemyev before the spacecraft launched as per which, Artemyev is carrying a very special payload i.e. a soccer ball which will later join the 2018 FIFA World Cup which is scheduled to take place in Russia from June 14 to July 15. The crew members will show off their soccer skills after which, Anton Shkaplerov will bring it down to the Earth before the commencement of the World Cup which will be kicked off before the first match.
NASA’s astronaut Arnold will carry the baton passed by astronaut Joe Acaba to conduct classes onboard the space station under “NASA’s Year of Education”. The crewmembers aboard Expedition 55/56 have a history of being part of space shuttle missions where Feustel and Arnold helped assemble the space station in 2009 and 2011 while Artemyev was a part of Expedition 39-40 where he donned the role of flight engineer. The trio will finally return to the Earth in August.