06 July 2016 News

The next trio of intrepid explorers head to the ISS

International Space Station Expedition 48/49 astronaut Kate Rubins of NASA, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi. Image: NASA
International Space Station Expedition 48/49 astronaut Kate Rubins of NASA, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi. Image: NASA

It may have been less than a month since Tim Peake, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra returned to Earth after 186 days in space, but science and space wait for no man or indeed woman. Ready to fill up the void left by the previous mission crew members, it is the turn of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to head to the International Space Station (ISS) tonight, with launch preparation starting at around 8.30 p.m EDT.

All three will travel in an upgraded Soyuz spacecraft and will spend approximately four months at the station, before returning to Earth in October. During their two-day transit from the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the ISS, the trio will test a variety of upgraded systems on their Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module on Saturday, July 9th. A number of modifications have been applied to the spacecraft including additional micrometeoroid debris shielding and increased power with more photovoltaic cells on the spacecraft’s solar arrays.

The newly arrived Expedition 48-49 crew will be greeted by Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and together, the crew members will continue the several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, Earth science and physical science already under way on board the orbital complex.

Kate Rubins, who will assume the role of Flight Engineer for Expeditions 48 and 49 was chosen from a pool of over 3,500 applicants to receive a spot on NASA’s 2009 astronaut training class. Rubins will participate in several science experiments during her time at the space station, and she is scheduled to be the first person to sequence DNA in space.

Research into sequencing the first genome in microgravity and how living in space changes the human body’s bone mass and cardiovascular systems are just two examples of the many experiments in which Rubins may participate.

Board engineer Onishi was also selected in 2009 by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency as a potential astronaut candidate for the space station and it is likely he will engage in scientific experiments in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) – the largest single module attached to the ISS – that is also known as Kibo.

Although Wednesday’s flight will be the first orbital mission for Rubins and Onishi, Ivanishin on the other hand has already flown to space in 2011. The Russian cosmonaut was a flight engineer for the Expedition 29/30 increment to the ISS and will therefore serve as the commander of Expedition 49 due to his spaceflight experience.

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