This morning, a trio of astronauts will make their way to the International Space Station, launching on top of a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan. The newcomers will join the three astronauts already living on board the ISS, bringing the total number of crew to six.
The incoming passengers include NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos. All three have flown to space before, and are scheduled to stay around six months on the ISS, leaving sometime in December. They’ll be arriving to Earth orbit just ahead of the solar eclipse scheduled for August 21st, which will pass over the continental United States. Bresnik told CBS News that they’ll be able to monitor the eclipse, since they’ll pass underneath it three times during orbit. “We’ve got special filters for the cameras to take those pictures,” Bresnik told CBS News. “We’ll share it right away with everybody.”
Bresnik and the others are slated to launch today at 11:41AM ET, or 9:41PM in Kazakhstan, and will spend six hours in orbit before docking with the ISS. Once they arrive, they’ll join up with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, as well as NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson. Whitson has been on the ISS for over eight months now, and is set to break the record for spending the most cumulative hours in space of any US astronaut before she leaves the ISS in September.
The new arrival means there will be two cosmonauts on the ISS, along with three NASA astronauts and a crew member from a partnering space agency. It’s an unusual mix for the station. Typically, the ISS houses three Russian cosmonauts, and the other three include a mix of NASA astronauts and another international crew member. However, Russia recently decided to reduce the number of cosmonauts on the station to two in order to cut costs. It’s only a temporary change until Russia finishes and launches a new segment to the station called the Multipurpose Laboratory Module. But in the meantime, NASA has opted to send an extra crew member to the ISS.
NASA’s coverage of the launch is scheduled to begin at 10:45AM ET. Check back to watch the mission live.