(By Nick Boudreau) NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency docked their Soyuz spacecraft with the orbiting laboratory at the International Space Station on Wednesday, May 29 after a six-hour flight. The three new Expedition 36 crew members lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
This was only the second time a crew has arrived at the space station less than a day after launch. Previously, the standard time from launch to docking was two days. Nyberg, Yurchikhin and Parmitano join NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov, who arrived at the station in March. These six crew members will comprise Expedition 36 for the next several months.
Schedule and experiments
The crew will have a busy schedule this summer. In June, Expedition 36 will welcome the arrival of the European Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 cargo spacecraft, followed by a spacewalk by Yurchikhin and Misurkin at the end of June. In July, Cassidy and Parmitano will perform two spacewalks, followed soon afterword by the arrival of a Russian cargo ship. This summer, a Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft will deliver supplies to the space station, followed by two more spacewalks by Yurchikhin and Misurkin.
Expedition 36 also will add to the more than 1,600 experiments that have taken place so far aboard the station. The crew will examine ways to maintain bone health, yielding important information about how the human body adapts to space and improving understanding of osteoporosis and its countermeasures. They will continue research into how plants grow, leading to more efficient crops on Earth and improving understanding of how future crews could grow their own food in space.
The crew also will test a new portable gas monitor designed to help analyze the environment inside the spacecraft and continue fuel and combustion experiments that past crews have undertaken. Studying how fire behaves in space will have a direct impact on future spaceflight and could lead to cleaner, more efficient combustion engines on Earth.
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