Warm greetings for new International Space Station crew

Pablo Tucker
April 24, 2017

Since 2011, when the Space Shuttle program was discontinued, NASA has been dependent on Russian-made Soyuz rockets to send and bring back astronauts that serve on the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) above Earth. They were welcomed by Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy of Russian Federation and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, as well as Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson of NASA, who on Monday will break the record for longest time spent in space by a US astronaut. The almost 8-ton space capsule made a radar-guided approach to the space station and docked with the lab's Poisk module at 1318 GMT (9:18 a.m. EDT) Thursday, around six hours after launch.

According to NASA, Fischer is a first-time space flier, whereas Yurchikhin is a veteran of four spaceflights.

Manned launches to the ISS usually involve three crew members.

"Mom, it's like me being in Texas, depending on where we are going around the Earth, I'll be just as close", he said, Reuters reported. "I liked everything about space", said Yurchikhin, 58, who is on his fifth spaceflight. He logged 537 total days on a space shuttle mission in 2002.

Fischer was selected for NASA's 20th astronaut class in July 2009 and completed training in 2011.

Their Soyuz capsule is the 50th Soyuz to blast to the ISS since 2000.

She is expected to receive a congratulatory phone call on Monday from US President Donald Trump, Nasa said on Wednesday.

The 57-year-old station commander, Peggy Whitson will beat 534 -day record of the U.S. astronaut for cumulative time spent at the station.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds the record of the oldest female astronaut to reach the ISS, will remain on board due to an extension from Expedition 51 to Expedition 52. She is scheduled to return to Earth in September. This will be a great learning for me as we can't try such thing here.

But Roscosmos announced a year ago that in the near future only two cosmonauts would be onboard the ISS rather than three as has been the case in recent times. It involved NASA's Ed Lu and Roscosmos' Yuri Malechenko riding the Soyuz TMA-2 to man the outpost in the wake of the disastrous loss of the space shuttle Columbia two months earlier.

These images show Yurchikhin and Fischer during the traditional door-signing and blessing ceremonies at Baikonur's crew quarters.

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