New crew members arrive at ISS on Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary

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Three new crew members arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos Russian Space Agency launched into orbit on a Soyuz MS-13 rocket on July 20. They departed Earth from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Following a six-hour flight, the trio of space travelers docked at the ISS and joined its resident Expedition 60 crew. Moreover, their arrival at the orbiting laboratory took place half a century to the day after NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin walked across the moon’s surface.

Warm ISS Welcome

Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch extended a warm welcome to their three new ISS crewmates. When the hatches between the space lab and the Soyuz rocket opened on Saturday at 9:04 p.m. ET, the station’s crew complement increased to six.

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Koch celebrated the successful journey on Twitter by posting photos of the Soyuz spacecraft’s approach, as seen from aboard ISS. She wrote:

NASA also posted a video clip of the trio’s ISS arrival on Twitter. The engaging visual shows resident crew members welcoming Morgan, Parmitano, and Skvortsov aboard the lab with a round of handshakes and hugs.

Important Work Ahead

Last month, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and her two crewmates departed the space station and returned to Earth after completing a 204-day interstellar mission. The new ISS members will carry on their important work, as well as initiate further studies.

In total, the six-member Expedition 60 team will conduct over 250 science investigations in the microgravity environment. The experiments will span six months. Fields of study include “biology, Earth science, human, research, physical sciences, and technology development.”

Plus, the crew will add incoming payloads from SpaceX’s next commercial resupply mission, CRS-18, to their robust experiment roster. For example, a Biorock study will explore how liquid, rocks, and microorganisms physically interact in space, for potential bio-mining applications.

The crew will also conduct a long-term investigation that hails from leading space research facility Space Tango. Via the effort, the ISS team will culture cells from people living with Parkinson’s Disease and multiple sclerosis. Moreover, they will examine cell to cell interaction in microgravity to learn about disease progression. Hopefully, study results will help researchers produce disease treatment and prevention options.

Other unique experiments will include growing moss at the ISS and trying to establish a platform to print biological tissues in space successfully.

Currently, Parmitano and Skvortsov are scheduled to return to Earth in February 2020. Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan will reportedly remain at the ISS for “an extended stay” that stretches into the spring of 2020.

First Stop ISS, Next Stops the Moon and Mars

Overall, many space station studies will focus on making scientific and technological advances that can improve life on Earth. These ongoing ISS research efforts will aim to discover ways to advance and support NASA’s goals for long-term space exploration at the moon and Mars.

As one vital part of meeting these interplanetary mission objectives, the SpaceX CRS-18 mission will deliver a second docking port at ISS. The new port will connect SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner capsules to the floating lab. Hague and Morgan will conduct a spacewalk no sooner than mid-August to install it.

The Elon Musk-helmed company’s impending CRS-18 launch is slated to occur on Wednesday, July 24. If all goes as planned, it will carry International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) with the mission’s other payloads.