The International Space Station returned to its full crew compliment of six people after the three-person Soyuz MS-08 docked with the orbiting outpost to join the ongoing Expedition 55.
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold docked their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft at 3:40 p.m. EDT (19:40 GMT) March 23, 2018, at the space-facing port of the Poisk module on the Russian Orbital Segment of the ISS while the complex was flying 408 kilometers over Serbia. After a couple hours of leak checks, the hatches between the spacecraft and station were opened at 5:48 p.m. EDT (21:48 GMT).
The trio was welcomed aboard by Expedition 55 Commander and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai, who have been living aboard the outpost since December 2017.
Artemyev, Feustel and Arnold launched in Soyuz MS-08 atop a Soyuz-FG carrier rocket two days ago, March 21, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Once in orbit, the spacecraft began a two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous profile.
Once inside, all six Expedition 55 members floated over to the Zvezda module for a conference with friends and family.
“It was a long ride,” Feustel said during the conference. “We counted 50 hours from the time that we took off until we arrived at the space station. We had a nice time, just the three of us. It was relaxing and [we] just enjoyed circling around the Earth and seeing all the beautiful sights. We’re all looking forward to getting to work.”
After the conclusion of the conference, the new trio was given a safety briefing before settling in for their home for the next five months.
This is the second spaceflight for 47-year-old Artemyev. He first flew to the space station in 2014 aboard Soyuz TMA-12M as part of expeditions 39 and 40. On that mission, he performed two spacewalks totaling 12 hours, 34 minutes.
For Feustel, 52, this is his third spaceflight. His previous two missions were aboard Space Shuttle missions STS-125 and STS-134. Between his two flights, he performed six spacewalks totaling 42 hours, 18 minutes.
Arnold, 52, is on his second spaceflight. His first was aboard Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-119 mission in 2009. On that 13-day mission, he performed two spacewalks totaling 12 hours, 34 minutes.
Next week, on March 29, Feustel and Arnold will conduct their first major task aboard the ISS—U.S. EVA-49. While outside, the duo will install wireless antennas on the Tranquility module and replace cameras on the P1 truss segment.
A week after that, SpaceX’s CRS-14 Dragon cargo ship is set to launch and rendezvous with the space station on April 2 and April 4 respectively.
In addition to various cargo ships arriving and departing during their multi-month stay, the crew will perform hundreds of experiments, many of which will be brought to the outpost by the those visiting vehicles.
The trio is slated to return to Earth in Soyuz MS-08 on Aug. 28, 2018.
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!