(WAFF) - Three veteran astronauts are on their way to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. On board were NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, along with Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. They are scheduled to dock to the space station's Rassvet module Friday afternoon.
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. 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.
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