Expedition 61 crew members welcomed to the International Space Station

Sept. 25 (UPI) — After a lengthy wait inside their Soyuz spacecraft, the three Expedition 61 crew members were welcomed into the Zvezda service module Wednesday.

Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, 35, was one of three crew members launched into space by a Soyuz rocket. He is the first space traveler from the United Arab Emirates.

“Almansoori is flying on an eight-day mission as a spaceflight participant under a contract between the UAE and Roscosmos,” NASA said.

The mission began when the rocket and crew capsule blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:57 a.m. EDT. After a few trips around Earth, the spacecraft docked at 3:45 p.m. EDT. The docking, hatch door opening and welcome ceremony were broadcast live on NASA TV.

Oleg Skripochka, a 49-year-old cosmonaut with two spaceflights under his belt, served as the Soyuz commander for the Expedition 61 flight. Skripochka and Almansoori were accompanied by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, 42.

The journey to the ISS was Meir’s inaugural space voyage. The former assistant professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School served as flight engineer on the trip. A native of Maine, Meir previously worked for Lockheed Martin as a human physiology researcher. She has a degree in biology from Brown University and a doctorate in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“About 2 hours after docking, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov,” NASA said.

For the next week, the space station will be a bit more crowded than usual, with a population of nine. The crew members will get more room to stretch out on Oct. 3, when Hague and Ovchinin head back to Earth after 200 days in space.

The duo will be joined on the flight home by Almansoori, whose stay will be a bit shorter than most astronauts.

“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,” NASA wrote in an update. “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.”





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