Three Astronauts Are Leaving Earth On Monday To Embark On A Six-Month Mission In Space

Alexandra Lozovschi

Bright and early on Monday morning, an international crew of astronauts will board a Soyuz capsule and lift off from Kazakhstan to fly to the research facility stationed in Earth's orbit.

The brave spacefarers are NASA's Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos. The trio is gearing up for a 6.5-month stay in orbit and will serve as the crew of Expedition 58 on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The astronauts will be traveling through space aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft, scheduled to launch at 6:31 a.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The capsule will reach the ISS after a six-hour spaceflight and dock with the space station's Poisk module at 12:35 p.m.

As NASA points out, Monday's space launch will be the first one for newbie McClain and Saint-Jacques, who have never left terra firma. Meanwhile, Kononenko is a veteran astronaut who has already served three missions on board the ISS.

The cosmonaut has flown to the space station on three separate occasions — for Expedition 17 in 2008, for Expedition 30/31 in 2011, and for Expedition 44/45 in 2015. During his previous three missions, Kononenko clocked in a total of 391 days, 11 hours and 19 minutes spent living in space and conducted three spacewalks, notes Spaceflight 101.

Once the trio arrives at their destination, the astronauts will be greeted by the crew of Expedition 57 — namely ISS commander Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, NASA flight engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Roscosmos flight engineer Sergey Prokopyev. The hatches between the Soyuz and the orbital outpost are expected to open within two hours after docking.

Although the newcomers are scheduled to arrive at the ISS next week, their mission won't officially begin until the end on the month, when the Expedition 57 crew departs the space station.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, Gerst, Auñón-Chancellor, and Prokopyev arrived at the ISS on June 8 and are scheduled to return to Earth on December 20. Their homecoming will ring in Expedition 58, which is slated to last until June 2019.

Fun Facts About Expedition 58

The trio's journey to the space station falls on the same day as the arrival of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at asteroid Bennu. The pioneering mission, the first one ever sent by the space agency to sample an asteroid, is expected to reach the 1,640-foot-wide space rock at noon on December 3 — or about half an hour before McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Kononenko dock with the ISS.

On the following day, a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will deliver more than 5,600 pounds of supply and science gear to the astronauts on board the space station. This is SpaceX's 16th cargo resupply mission to the ISS and will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1.38 p.m. EST, according to NASA Live — which is scheduled to air all three events.

Although Expedition 58 will start off with a three-member crew, three more astronauts are slated to join McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Kononenko next spring. These are NASA astronauts Christina Hammock and Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin.

Hague and Ovchinin were originally scheduled to fly to the ISS on October 11. Their space launch was aborted a few minutes after take-off, when their Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft suffered a malfunction in mid-air, as reported by the Inquisitr at the time. The two astronauts walked away unharmed from the unfortunate experience and are waiting to try their luck again in March. Together with Hammock, they will serve as the crew of Expedition 58/59.