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Two Space Veterans and a Rookie French Astronaut Join International Space Station for a Five-month Mission

The current record is 534 days held by astronaut Jeff Williams

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International Space Station crew members, from left, American Peggy Whitson, Russian Oleg Novitskiy and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet are seen before the launch of the Soyuz spacecraft at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Nov. 17, 2016. VOA
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Nov 18, 2016: Two space veterans and a rookie French astronaut are on their way to the International Space Station for a five-month mission.

American astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and France’s Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency blasted off aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Friday morning from Kazakhstan.

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This will be a record-breaking mission for Whitson. At 56, she is the oldest woman to fly in space, and by the time the mission is over, she will set a new record for the most hours accumulated in space by an American.

The current record is 534 days held by astronaut Jeff Williams.

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“The most important thing about the station is the friendships and the work we accomplish there,” Whitson said before the launch.

Novitskiy is making his second trip to the space station, and this will be the first for Pesquet. They will join the three-man crew currently aboard the station. (VOA)

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Space station crew will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times, says NASA

The six astronauts and cosmonauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duty and family conferences before taking the New Year’s Day off.

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The ISS currently has current six crew members on the orbital laboratory. Wikimedia Commons
The ISS currently has current six crew members on the orbital laboratory. Wikimedia Commons

As the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) orbit Earth once every 90 minutes, they will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times, NASA pointed out. That is 16 sunrise and sunsets 402.3 km above Earth, the US space agency said in a blog post on Thursday. The six astronauts and cosmonauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duty and family conferences before taking the New Year’s Day off.

The current six crew members on the orbital laboratory comprise three US astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut. Ahead of the New Year, the astronauts are conducting life science studies to help mission doctors keep astronauts healthier and stronger while living in outer space.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai took his turn on the exercise bike on Thursday for a study researching physical exertion in space. Doctors measure the astronauts breathing and other parameters during exercise to ensure they have the strength to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks and even emergency procedures.

ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA was harvesting plants for the Advanced Plants Experiment-05 (APEX) and stowing the botany samples in a science freezer for further analysis, the blog post said.

Scientists are exploring how plants respond to microgravity and observing molecular and genetic changes. The two other NASA astronauts living and working aboard the space station are Vande Hei and Joe Acaba. Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are the other two other crew members.