Three new crew members from the US, Russia and Italy reached on Monday at the International Space Station (ISS) on board a Russian spaceship, including the first ever Italian woman astronaut to reach the space station.
Terry Virts of NASA, Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board the Russian Soyuz capsule. Cristoforetti is the first Italian woman astronaut to reach the ISS.
The three join Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA as well as Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of Roscosmos have been aboard the ISS since September.
The crew members will conduct hundreds of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations during their six-month sojourn on the orbiting laboratory.
These include observations of the genetic makeup of roundworms, examining aerosols in the atmosphere and levitating cooling liquid metals.
One new investigation will look at epigenetics, which means “outside the genes”, or changes that can be inherited for several generations without affecting an organism’s basic DNA. Researchers study millimeter-long roundworms called C. elegans as models for larger organisms.
During the investigation, four generations of the worms will be grown aboard the space station with adults from each generation preserved for later study on Earth.
The Electromagnetic Levitator (EML) suite of material science research investigations examines the effects of microgravity on various material properties.
Having such a facility in microgravity will allow scientists to observe the fundamental physical processes that occur as liquid metals cool.
Expedition 42 will continue to take advantage of the orbital lab’s unique microgravity environment and expand the scope of research.
The crew will perform experiments that cover human research, biological and physical sciences, technology development and Earth observations, as well as engage in educational activities, NASA reported.
Wilmore, Samokutyaev and Serova will return home in March 2015. At that time, Virts will become commander of the station for Expedition 43. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti will return to Earth in May 2015.