Less than three and a half hours after launching Baikonur, the Soyuz spacecraft named Yuri Gagarin, and its three-man crew, joined the International Space Station on Friday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the start of human spaceflight.
The Soyuz Msz-18 spacecraft carrying Oleg Novickij, Pyotr Dubrov, Russia’s Roscosmos and Mark Vande Heit, an American NASA astronaut, docked to the ISS’s Raszvet module after a very short, double-orbiting trajectory.
The station now includes ten astronauts: in addition to the newcomers, two Russian cosmonauts, Sergey Rezikov and Sergey Koji Svirchkov, four American astronauts, Kathleen Robbins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and one Japanese astronaut, Noguchi Sochi. The last four crew members arrived last October aboard SpaceX Crew in a body orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 400 km.
The Gagarin crew – the sixty-fifth mission sent to the space station – are scheduled to spend 191 days in outer space, carry out about half a hundred scientific experiments, and do their work twice as they go into space to receive the new Nouka multifunction vehicle. After that, Novicki will be back, and Dubrov and Fandy Hit will stay up for about a year.
Three of the space station’s current residents – Mission 94 members – will return to Earth next week.
The world’s first astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, took off from Baikonur on April 12, 1961 aboard Vostok 1. The anniversary of her 108-minute flight is celebrated on Space Day in Russia.
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