New Crewmembers Are En Route to the ISS

HOUSTON, June 16 (UPI) — Two astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut were en route Wednesday to the International Space Station after a launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Officials said the Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying the Expedition 24 spacemen lifted off at 5:35 p.m. EDT Tuesday, starting a two-day journey to catch up with the space station that’s orbiting 220 miles above Earth. NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker, along with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, are to begin a 5 1/2-month tour of duty when they dock with the station at 6:25 p.m. EDT Thursday.

NASA said fellow Expedition 24 crewmates Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson will welcome them aboard station when the hatches open shortly after 10 p.m.

Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin will become the Expedition 25 crew in September when Skvortsov, Kornienko and Caldwell Dyson return to Earth.

NASA said it is Wheelock’s second trip into space — he traveled to the station in 2007 and conducted three spacewalks. While Walker is making her first spaceflight, the mission is Yurchikhin’s third excursion and his second long-duration stay aboard the orbiting station. He flew to the station in 2002 and also spent six months aboard the ISS in 2007 as Expedition 15 commander.

NASA’s TV coverage of Thursday’s docking will begin at 6 p.m. EDT. NASA TV will return at 10 p.m. for coverage of the hatch opening and the welcoming ceremony aboard the station.

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