Space station receives oldest female astronaut, bit of Mars

Space station receives oldest female astronaut, bit of Mars

The crew of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russia's Oleg Novitskiy and France's Thomas Pesquet lifted off from the Russia-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan at 2:20 a.m. Friday (2020 GMT, 3:20 p.m. EST Thursday) and went into orbit eight minutes later.

In February, Whitson will become the first woman to command the space station twice.

The International Space Station (ISS) received three new crewmembers today (Nov. 19), with the arrival of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The crew of Expedition 51 arrived on the International Space Station on Saturday.

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and Roscosmos commander Oleg Novitsky were aboard the spacecraft, and are now getting ready to dock with the ISS, circling Earth 34 times before they will be ready to meet up with the speeding space station on Saturday.

The crew is due to reach the station at 5:01 p.m. EST (2201 GMT) on Saturday, where it will be greeted by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian flight engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, who arrived on October 21. By the time she touches back on Earth in the spring of 2017, her time in orbit will exceed that of Jeff Williams, who in September amassed 534 off-planet days, the most of any USA astronaut.

Whitson, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry, will turn 57 during her current ISS mission.

She replied: "I'm really happy to be here".

A multinational crew, including a U.S. astronaut who is the oldest and most experienced woman to fly in space, arrived at the International Space Station yesterday.

Before rocketing away, Pesquet told reporters he was taking up a piece of a Mars meteorite to illustrate the necessary union between human and robotic explorers. It then will launch aboard a Mars rover and return to its home planet.

Pasquet shared, "It's going to be the most experienced space traveler there is in the world".

They will spend their mission maintaining the station and working on scientific experiments that can not be done anywhere else - exploiting the weightlessness that is unique to the space laboratory.

Since the first satellite was launched from Earth into orbit - the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, in 1957 - space debris has been accumulating steadily.