Two NASA astronauts, one cosmonaut head for ISS

MISSE-2 Atomic oxygen erosion figure

The trio are aboard a Soyuz rocket that left as scheduled from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan - eight months before Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques leaves for the orbiting space laboratory in November for a six-month stay.

NASA's Drew Feustel and Richard Arnold lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a five month mission in a Soyuz MS-08 under the command of Russian colleague Oleg Artemyev at the expected time of 1744 GMT. The pair is being joined by Russian Oleg Artemyev on a Russian manufactured Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA's Scott Tingle, as well as Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, are now aboard the space station.

Feustel and Arnold will also prepare for a spacewalk on 29 March while familiarising themselves with space station operations.

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A NASA astronaut with ties to Canada heads to the International Space Station today on a visit that will last almost six months.

Soon after they arrive, the three new ISS occupants will begin a series of experiments ranging from observing how crystals grow in space to measuring how living in space impacts the amount of red blood cells in the astronauts' blood.

"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 careers", NASA wrote in an update.

The study exposes sample plates containing a variety of surface materials to the harsh environs of space outside the station for varying durations.

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