A little while ago the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which blasted off about two days ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has reached the International Space Station carrying three new crew members. The astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA and the cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos now complete the Expedition 55 crew.
The 6-hour fast track was already used on a few occasions with the MS version of the Soyuz spacecraft but requires a very precise set of maneuvers that are possible when the Station is in a certain position. In this case, the space agencies preferred to complete the crew as soon as possible rather than wait for the many days needed to allow the use of the fast track. This prevented the tasks from being carried out with a reduced crew for all those days the way it happened with the weeks that preceded the completion of the Expedition 55 crew.
The Soyuz-FG rocket used to launch the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft had a third stage with a different color than usual because at its base there the official emblem of 2018 FIFA World Cup that will begin in Russia in a few days. For this reason, a few days before the launch, the three crew members and their backups signed a commemorative football in a ceremony for this event.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst can begin his second mission on the International Space Station, which was named Horizons. The section of ESA’s website about his activities was revamped for this mission and Gerst will write new articles for his blog in which he will describe them.
After the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft’s docking with the International Space Station’s Rassvet module, the procedures that will lead to the opening of the hatch begun. Soon the new crew members will physically enter the Station, where they will be greeted by their colleagues with a short welcome ceremony. Their return to Earth is scheduled, unless there’s a change of plans, for December 13, 2018, at the end of Expedition 57.