New Delhi: A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying three crew members representing the United States, Russia and France are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:20 p.m. EST Thursday, November 17, 2016 (2:20 a.m. Nov. 18, Baikonur time).
As per NASA, the spacecraft carrying Peggy Whitson of NASA, Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), is scheduled to dock with the space station’s Rassvet module at 5:01 p.m. Saturday, November 19.
Watch below as Expedition crew 50 starts day early and heads out to the launch pad, suits up and finally lifts off on two-day mission to the space station!
Exp 50 starts day early and heads out to the launch pad, suits up and finally lifts off on two-day mission to the space station. pic.twitter.com/G8LkDwiJlB
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) November 18, 2016
NASA TV coverage of docking will begin at 4:15 p.m. Hatches are scheduled to open about 7:35 p.m., with NASA TV coverage starting at 6:45 p.m.
Whitson, 56, a biochemist and Nasa’s former chief astronaut, will become the first woman to command the space station twice. She is making her third trip to the station. By the time she returns to Earth in six months, Whitson will have acquired more time in orbit than any other US astronaut, surpassing the 534-day record set by Jeff Williams in September.
The arrival of the trio -Whitson, Novitskiy and Pesquet - returns the station's crew complement to six as they join Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.
The Expedition 50 crew will spend more than four months conducting research biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
Upcoming research includes how lighting impacts the overall health and well-being of crew members, and how microgravity affects tissue regeneration in humans and the genetic properties of space-grown plants.
While Whitson, Novitskiy and Pesquet will remain aboard the station until next spring, Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko are scheduled to return to Earth in February 2017.