Another batch of astronauts was taken to the International Space Station using the Soyuz rocket on Friday.
Crew members were two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut who were expected to reach the space station after six hours from departure. Their arrival will make the ISS crew grew to six.
Astronauts Jeff Williams of NASA, Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Aleksey Ovchinin launched from Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz space capsule at exactly 5:26 pm.
NASA officials shared that two crew members opened the hatches between the ISS and the capsule at 12:55 am so that the three astronauts can safely enter the station and join on board astronauts Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of ESA and Yuri Malenchenko of Russia.
NASA spokeperson Dan Huot said that, “The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft [is] now safely in orbit, Jeff Williams, Aleksey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka on board and ready to chase down the International Space Station.”
Scott Kelly made a space record for staying 520 days in space. Astronaut Jeff Williams has a current mission that will allow him to break Kelly’s record and he already spent 362 days in space. Williams is expected to go back to planet this coming August totaling 534 days by then.
Ovchinin debuts his first mission, while Skripochka celebrates his second mission. Williams already stayed aboard the ISS four times since his first time more than 15 years ago via the space shuttle Atlantis. The ISS was under construction at that time. But he feels so fortunate to be given the chance to set a new space record for most number of cumulative days in space by an American astronaut.
A news published by the OrlandoSentinel reported that, “Flying along with Ovchinin and his crewmates will be his daughter’s stuffed pink owl, which could be seen dangling in front of the camera inside Soyuz. The stuffed toy was not just cute, but served a purpose indicating gravity changes.”
NASA officials have reported these exact words, “American astronaut Jeff Williams of NASA and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Aleksey Ovchinin of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) launched toward the space station at 5:26 p. m. EDT (2126 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The trio, riding in a Soyuz space capsule, is expected to rendezvous with the space station after a 6-hour journey, with docking set for 11:11 p. m. EDT (0311 GMT on March 19).”
Dan Huot, NASA’s spokeperson announced, “The Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft [is] now safely in orbit, Jeff Williams, Aleksey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka on board and ready to chase down the International Space Station.”
“Godspeed and safe travels … Looking forward to welcoming you onboard ISS in a few hours!” Peake posted these tweets before the capsule launched.
NASA headquarters happily said their goodbyes and warm wishes to the crew, “Enjoy yourself, and take very good care of the space station for us.”