BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan – A new expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) is set to launch on Friday from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s Pad 1, where the first manned space flight began 56 years ago with lift-off of the capsule carrying Russia’s Yuri Gagarin.
Aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft will be European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, NASA’s Randy Bresnik and Sergey Ryazansky of Roscosmos, all with previous spaceflight experience.
The launch is set for 1548 GMT and the capsule is scheduled to arrive at the ISS six hours and twelve minutes later, where the new contingent will be welcomed by Expedition 52 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson.
The three astronauts scheduled to take off on Friday will spend 139 days aboard the station.
Ryazansky said that the mission will include a space walk on Aug. 17.
“This is a fundamentally scientific activity, we will not do repair work,” the cosmonaut told a press conference here, explaining that his companion for the excursion, Yurchikhin, will conduct tests on the Orlan-MKS, a new spacesuit equipped with an automatic thermoregulation system.
Ryazansky is a veteran of three spacewalks, including an excursion of eight hours and seven minutes that is the longest on record.
The expedition’s scientific program includes more than 300 experiments.
“But the most important experiment is the space flight itself,” according to Ryazansky, who plans to bring on board a knitted gnome chosen by his family to serve as his personal talisman.
The ISS, a 16-nation project representing an investment of more than $150 billion, currently comprises 14 permanent modules and orbits the Earth at a speed of more than 27,000 kph (16,800 mph).
The station’s orbit is raised periodically with the assistance of the thrusters of docked spacecraft, as the ISS loses 100-150 meters (328-492 feet) of altitude per day due to gravity, solar activity and other factors.