NASA has announced that astronaut Jessica Meir and two fellow crew members have safely arrived for their mission aboard the International Space Station, temporarily increasing the orbiting laboratory´s population to nine people, the company said.
The Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft carried Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and the first space traveler from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hazzaa Ali Almansoori.
Their spacecraft docked to the station´s Zvezda service module after a four-orbit, six-hour flight. The eight days between the trio´s arrival and the departure of Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft will see the largest crew aboard the station since September 2015, when nine crew members were aboard for seven days during Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko´s year-long mission.
The Expedition 61 crew will spend more than six months conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development. Work on the unique microgravity laboratory advances scientific knowledge and demonstrates new technologies, making research breakthroughs that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars.
During Expedition 61, crew members will install new lithium-ion batteries for two of the station´s solar array power channels through a series of spacewalks. Later in the expedition, spacewalkers are scheduled to upgrade and repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a key science instrument housed outside the station to study dark matter and the origins of the universe.
A global endeavor, more than 230 people from 18 countries have visited the International Space Station, which has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.