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Two NASA astronauts among crew heading to International Space Station

(21 March 2018 - NASA Johnson) Three crew members, including NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:44 p.m. EDT Wednesday (11:44 p.m. Baikonur time).

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The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:44 p.m. EDT March 21, 2018 (11:44 p.m. Baikonur time). The crew is scheduled to dock to the International Space Station at 3:41 p.m. March 23, 2018. (courtesy: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Feustal, Arnold and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is scheduled to dock to the space station’s Rassvet module at 3:41 p.m. Friday, March 23. Coverage of docking will begin at 3 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed at 5 p.m. by coverage of the opening of hatches between the spacecraft and station.

The arrival of Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev will restore the station's crew complement to six. They will join Scott Tingle of NASA, Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The crew members will spend more than five months conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Shkaplerov, Tingle and Kanai are scheduled to remain aboard the station until June 2018, while Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev are slated to return to Earth in August.

This crew continues the long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the space station. Highlights of upcoming investigations include: a new facility to test materials, coatings and components of other large experiments in the harsh environment of space; a study on the effects of microgravity on bone marrow and blood cells produced in bone marrow; and a newly-developed passive nutrient delivery system for the Veggie plant growth facility.

Arnold, a former educator, will continue NASA’s Year of Education on Station, an initiative to engage students and educators in human spaceflight and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,100 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.