The population of the International Space Station returned to six people when Soyuz MS-07 with three fresh crew members autonomously docked with the outpost’s Rassvet module. Contact between the two vehicles occurred at 3:39 a.m. EST (08:39 GMT) Dec. 19, 2017.
Just over two hours later, at 5:55 a.m. EST (10:55 GMT), the hatches between the two spacecraft were opened and the Soyuz’s three-man crew – Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai – entered to join Expedition 54. They were greeted by the already-aboard commander and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, and NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba.
The latter trio has been aboard since Sept. 13, 2017, after arriving in Soyuz MS-06. Misurkin, Vande Hei, and Acaba will return to Earth in late February 2018. The Soyuz MS-07 crew, however, will remain aboard the orbiting laboratory until June 2018.
After launching on Dec. 17, 2017, Soyuz MS-07 took a longer, 34-orbit rendezvous profile to reach the ISS. Although the flight was originally planned for Dec. 27, according to NASASpaceflight, the U.S. space agency asked for the launch to be pushed forward to avoid having personnel at Baikonur or in transit over the holidays. This necessitated the longer transit time instead of the shorter four-orbit, six-hour rendezvous profile.
This is Shkaplerov’s third flight in space. His previous two were also long duration missions. From 2011 to 2012, he was part of expeditions 29 and 30, spending some five and a half months at the complex. Then, from 2014 to 2015, he was part of the Expedition 42/43 crew increment, spending just over six months on orbit.
Tingle and Kanai, on the other hand, are on their first flight.
According to NASA, during their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, some 250 science investigations will be performed in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development.
NOTE: While this article was written by Derek Richardson, it was originally published at SpaceFlight Insider. Feel free to head over there to read all the stuff they write about!