After a six-hour journey through Earth’s orbit, the Expedition 58 crew has arrived safely on board the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian Oleg Konenenko of Roscosmos set foot inside the orbital outpost at around 2:37 p.m. ET — or as soon as the hatches between the ISS and their Soyuz MS-11 capsule were opened.
The space pod had docked with the space station two hours before, parking at the ISS Poisk module.
“With the docking of their space capsule, Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques, and Oleg Konenenko have arrived at the space station. They will now put hooks in place and check for leaks before opening the hatches to their new home,” NASA wrote on Twitter a few hours ago.
The trio set off on their trip to space bright and early this morning, launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6.31 a.m. ET, the Inquisitr reported earlier today.
Upon reaching the ISS, newbies McClain and David Saint-Jacques and seasoned spacefarer Konenenko were greeted by the members of Expedition 57 — U.S. astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor, German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos. Their arrival aboard Earth’s orbiting laboratory expands the astronaut crew on the research facility, briefly restoring it to six members, states NASA.
With the arrival of a new trio of crew, there are now six humans living and working on the @Space_Station. During their time on humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory, they'll work on 100's of @ISS_Research experiments. Learn more: https://t.co/b5oQ8ZubTq pic.twitter.com/WETZU71F9P— NASA (@NASA) December 3, 2018
The last time there were six people aboard the ISS was during Expedition 56. The crew number was reduced with the departure of NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, who returned to Earth on October 4 together with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev.
Since then, Expedition 57 has been operating with just three members. Their number was originally slated to increase to five, but the plans fell through when a scheduled launch to the ISS was aborted a few minutes after liftoff.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin were slated to join Aunon-Chancellor, Gerst, and Prokopyev on October 11. Their trip to the ISS was eventually postponed after the Soyuz rocket that was supposed to fly them to space malfunctioned immediately after launch.
The space station will be inhabited by a six-member crew for a period of a little over two weeks, working to complete the tasks assigned to Expedition 57. The astronaut team will again be reduced to three people when Aunon-Chancellor, Gerst, and Prokopyev leave the ISS on December 20. Their homecoming will officially kick-start Expedition 58, with Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques, and Oleg Kononenko as the sole occupants of the orbital outpost.
“McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Konenenko will spend more than six months conducting hundreds of science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the moon and Mars,” details a NASA news release, noting that the “upcoming investigations include experiments in forest observation, robotic refueling, and satellite deployment.”
The three astronauts will also be on board the ISS during the first test flights of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, NASA remarks in a blog post. These first unmanned missions of the two astronaut-ferrying capsules are scheduled for January and March, respectively, per a previous Inquisitr report.
The month of March will also bring a new group of people to the space station, as McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Konenenko welcome the members of Expedition 59.
These are none other than Hague and Ovchinin, whose canceled spaceflight was rescheduled for next spring. The duo will be joined by NASA astronaut Christina Hammock — once again upping the crew number to six people.