The Expedition 47/48 crew increment of Astronaut Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ, and Cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka, RN3FU, and Alexey Ovchinin, is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). Their Soyuz TMA-20M launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 18 at 2126 UTC. The trio now is safely in orbit. NASA Television coverage of the launch continues:
“During their 6-month mission, the expedition crew members will facilitate approximately 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations not possible on Earth,” NASA said. “Science conducted also will enable future long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space and on the agency’s journey to Mars.”
Williams, Skripochka, and Ovchinin will join Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra, KE5UDN, European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI/GB1SS, and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, RK3DUP. Williams will take command of the station on June 4 for Expedition 48. The three will return to Earth in early September.
This mission marks Williams’ fourth spaceflight and will be his third long-duration stay on the orbiting laboratory — a first for an American. It’s also his first time back to the ISS since its completion in 2011. By the time his duty tour ends in September, Williams will become the new American record holder for cumulative days in space — 534 — surpassing Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly, who wrapped up his 1-year mission on March 1.