NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will launch Thursday, Nov. 17, for a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station.
Prelaunch activities will air through Nov. 16, and live launch coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. EST Nov. 17, on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The crew of Expedition 50/51 will launch at 3:20 p.m. (2:20 a.m. Nov. 18, Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
After launching, the crew members will travel for two days before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. NASA TV coverage of the docking will begin at 4:15 p.m. Hatches between the Soyuz and station will open at approximately 7:35 p.m., and the arriving crew will be welcomed by Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, who have been aboard the complex since October. NASA TV coverage of hatch opening and welcoming ceremonies will begin at 6:45 p.m.
During their stay aboard the orbital complex, Whitson will become the first woman to command the space station twice. Her first tenure as commander was in 2007, when she became the first woman to hold this post. Whitson has an advanced degree in biochemistry, and prior to her selection as an astronaut candidate in 1996, she served in prominent medical science research and supervisory positions at NASA.
The soon-to-be six crew members of Expedition 50 will contribute to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity’s only microgravity laboratory. The crew is scheduled to return to Earth next spring.