A few hours ago the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and after a little more than six hours reached the International Space Station with two new crew members on board. The Soyuz used the fast track, the first time for the new version of this spacecraft.
In recent months the Russian space agency Roscosmos decided to reduce the number of cosmonauts in service on the International Space Station after another delay in completing a new module for the Station. The consequence was a change of crew scheduling and only two persons completed the Expedition 51:
Fyodor Yurchikhin. Born on January 3, 1959 at Batuni, in the then USSR and today in Georgia, he graduated in mechanical engineering from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1983 specializing in aerospace vehicles. In 2001 he obtained a doctorate in economics. In 1997 he entered the Russian space program accumulating experiences in various missions. In October 2002, he was part of the crew of the STS-112 mission on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. In 2007 he went for the first time to the International Space Station, where he was also the commander of Expedition 15 performing three spacewalks. In 2010 he returned to the Station as a flight engineer as part of Expedition 24/25 performing two spacewalks. In 2013 he returned to the Station as part of Expedition 36/37, as its commander in the second part of that period, until November 11, 2013.
Jack David Fischer. Born on January 23, 1974 in Louisville, Colorado, USA, he joined the U.S. Air Force Academy and graduated in astronautical engineering in 1996. He completed a Masters in Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT in 1998. After serving in various military missions, he was selected as an astronaut candidate in 2009 by NASA. He’s at his first space mission.
The good news is that the Roscosmos systems needed to allow the use of the fast track have been deemed reliable, so much that its use was resumed after quite some time with a manned Soyuz instead of a robotic Progress freighter. The Expedition 51 crew consisting of 5 people instead of the usual 6 will have to continue the work on the International Space Station.