Three new crew members were sent to the International Space Station early on Wednesday morning to begin the mission, which will increase to the maximum the number of crew members over the past 2 years.
Sergey Volkov, Andreas Mogensen and Aydin Aimbetov started aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Wednesday (September 2) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:37 am local time.
“Everything is fine on board,” Volkov said on the radio to the mission control center in Russia after a successful launch.
If everything goes according to plan, the trio will get to the station on Friday morning (September 4). Newcomers will increase the number of crew members on board the orbital complex to nine. The last time such an amount was reached in November 2013.
But such a high population density will not last long. Mogensen and Aimbetov will return to Earth on September 12 with cosmonaut Gennady Padalk, who has been on the International Space Station since March. After that, only six crew members will remain aboard the ISS: Volkov, his colleagues Oleg Kononenko and Mikhail Kornienko, the Japanese astronaut Yui Kimiya and NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren.
Kelly and Kornienko are halfway through their annual mission aboard the space station. Researchers are studying how they physically and psychologically adapt to long-term space missions. The results should help future human missions to Mars.
Twin brother Kelly Mark, who is a former NASA astronaut, participates in an experiment from Earth and acts as a control point with which to compare data in the future.