Barely two months after a Soyuz made an emergency landing, the Russian spacecraft has safely brought one astronaut each from the US and Canada and a cosmonaut from Russia to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Soyuz carrying Anne McClain of NASA, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos launched at 6.31 a.m. on December 3 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
McClain, Saint-Jacques and Konenenko docked to the space station's Poisk module at 12.33 p.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour journey, and opened the hatch between the two spacecraft at 2.37 p.m., and are adjusting to life, NASA said in a statement on December 4.
This is the first spaceflight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth trip to the space station for Kononenko.
The three crew members will spend more than six months conducting hundreds of science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.
They will also conduct experiments in forest observation, robotic refuelling and satellite deployment.
This arrival briefly restores the ISS' crew complement to six as they join Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Aunon-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev are scheduled to remain aboard the station until December 20. Expedition 58 officially begins once the three departing spacefarers undock from the space station, NASA stated.
The new crew is scheduled to be onboard during the first test flights of NASA's Commercial Crew Programme, which will return human spaceflight launches to US soil.
In March 2019, the station will again return to a full complement of six crew members when they are joined for Expedition 59 by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.
In October, booster failure forced a Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague to make an emergency landing.
The incident became the first failure of a manned space launch in modern Russian history.
Hague will now head to the ISS in February 2019.
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