The International Space Station (ISS) recently welcomed three new crew members including the oldest ever female astronaut to visit the station Peggy Whitson of NASA. The two crew members are European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Roscosmos commander Oleg Novitsky.
The trio was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 17 at 20:20 GMT aboard the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft and docked with the ISS on November 19 after a two-day flight. Thomas, Peggy and Oleg were welcomed aboard the Space Station at 00:40 GMT by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov. The crew of six will now maintain the ISS and carry out scientific experiments to advance our understanding on various topics.
Pesquet’s arrival at the ISS marks the start of Proxima mission, named after the closest star to the Sun – continuing a tradition of naming missions with French astronauts after stars and constellations. The Proxima mission is part of ESA’s vision to use Earth-orbiting spacecraft as a place to live and work for the benefit of European society while using the experience to prepare for future voyages of exploration further into the Solar System.
Pesquet will perform about 50 scientific experiments for ESA and France’s CNES space agency, as well as take part in many research activities for the other Station partners. This is the ninth long-duration mission for an ESA astronaut and Thomas is the last of ESA’s 2009 recruits to fly into space. A former airline pilot, he is the first French astronaut to visit the Station since ESA’s Léopold Eyharts helped to install Europe’s Columbus module in 2008.
The new arrivals will spend six months in space before returning in Soyuz MS-03 to land in the steppes of Kazakhstan. ESA’s Paolo Nespoli, backup on this mission, is readying himself for launch in 2017 shortly after Thomas returns.