New crewmember, guests bring space station crowd to nine
Sen—A Russian Soyuz capsule slipped into a berthing port on the International Space Station on Friday to deliver a new flight engineer for the live-aboard crew and two guests who will spend a week aboard the orbital outpost.
Originally, British soprano and aspiring space tourist Sarah Brightman was due to make the trip, but she pulled out of her training and canceled plans, citing personal family issues. In her place, Russia flew Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov, who along with European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, will return back to Earth on Sep. 11.
Typically, returning crews fly home before their replacements are launched. As part of a trial year-long mission, however, two of the station’s current six-man crew—NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko—will not be returning to Earth for another six months.
The new arrivals front a gathering of the nine astronauts now on the ISS. Image credit: NASA TV
Newly arrived cosmonaut Sergey Volkov will take over for station commander Gennady Padalka, who launched with Kelly and Kornienko on another Soyuz capsule in March. That capsule has reached the end of its orbital lifetime and will carry Padalka, Aimbetov and Mogensen back to Earth on Sep. 11.
Also aboard are cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, bringing the station’s crew temporarily to nine.
The last time that many people were aboard the station was in November 2013 when Russia overlapped a crew handover so it could fly and return an Olympic torch in advance of the Winter Games in Sochi.
“Everybody is doing well, we’re ready for work,” Volkov said during a NASA Television broadcast after he and his crewmates floated into the station.
Mogensen, who is Denmark’s first astronaut, said getting used to weightlessness took some time.
“For the first day or so it felt like I was hanging from my legs with my head downwards. But after about a day, I kind of lost that feeling, and now I feel pretty good about being weightless,” he said.
Padalka is scheduled to turn over command of the station to Kelly on Saturday, officially ending the Expedition 44 mission.
The Soyuz docking. Credit: ESA