Soyuz space capsule carrying American, Russian blasts off

Ham Astronauts Swap Places on International Space Station

The launch is scheduled for 3:13 a.m. EDT, 1:13 p.m. Baikonur time.

Ms Whitson, a station commander, is going to become the USA astronaut who has spent the most cumulative time in space - surpassing the 534 days served by Jeff Williams. The Russian spacecraft normally carries three crew members, but Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, recently opted to reduce its station crew by one in the near term to reduce costs. "Fyodor told me I should be doing that", he said.

The arrival of Fischer and Yurchikhin increased the station's crew complement to five. They will be joined by Whitson, whose mission recently was extended.

During Expeditions 51 and 52, Fischer and Yurchikhin will help with hundreds of experiments and oversee the arrival and departure of Russian and USA visiting vehicles - the first of which, Orbital ATK's S.S. John Glenn Cygnus cargo freighter, is set to berth at the space station on Saturday (April 22). About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz capsule and station opened.Fischer, on his first space voyage, and Yurchikhin floated into the waiting arms of station commander Peggy Whitson and her crew. She returns to Earth in September.

A scaled-down, two-man U.S.

Ham Astronauts Swap Places on International Space Station
After delays due to rocket problems, next space station crew set to launch

The rocket launch comes amid some uncertainty after a Soyuz rocket carrying an uncrewed Progress spacecraft exploded about six minutes into flight on December 1, 2016, wiping out 2.6 tons of food, fuel, and supplies. The new avionics box is arriving aboard Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft on Saturday, April 22.

US President Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump are expected to congratulate Whitson on her achievement in an Earth-to space call on Monday, according to NASA.

Fischer and Yurchikhin reached the $100 billion space station, which orbits about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth on schedule at 9:18 a.m. EDT (1318 GMT).

The pair will travel on a fast-track, 6-hour course to the space station and dock to the Poisk module.

On Monday, Station commander Peggy Whitson is due to beat the 534-day record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut.

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