ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen arrived at the Internation Space Station today after a two-day flight with Soyuz spacecraft commander Sergei Volkov and Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov.
Their flight to the International Space Station in the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft began at 04:37 GMT (06:37 CEST, 10:37 local time) on 2 September as they were launched into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
After circling the globe for the following two days, the spacecraft docked at 07:39 GMT (09:39 CEST) this morning, 4 September.
The automated rendezvous sequence began about two hours before docking, with the crew ready to take over manually if required. The trio opened the spacecraft hatch at 10:15 GMT (12:15 CEST) to join six astronauts already in space, bringing the total number of people on the Station to nine, for the first time since 2013.
Andreas’s ESA ‘iriss’ mission lasts ten days and he is devoting his time in space to test new technologies and improving space operations. His activities include testing a new water-cleaning membrane that mimics nature, hands-free goggles to help with complex tasks, a tight-fitting suit to alleviate back pain common in astronauts and driving three different rovers on Earth to prepare for missions farther away in our Solar System.
The iriss mission was conceived, planned and carried out by ESA, with mission control working 24/7 at the Columbus Control Centre, located at the German Aerospace Center DLR, in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. All of Andreas’s experiments use the European space laboratory Columbus or the European bay-window observatory Cupola.
The Soyuz commander Sergei Volkov will stay on the International Space Station for five months while Andreas and Aidyn return with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka on the Soyuz TMA-16M vehicle. The change of spacecraft is part of the marathon mission for NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko, who are staying on the Station for 11 months. Soyuz spacecraft are designed to stay in space for around six months, so the long-stay crew’s vehicle must be replaced by courtesy of Sergei, Andreas and Aidyn.
Andreas has an essential role in this spacecraft swap, assisting both Soyuz commanders on each flight in his role as flight engineer, or second in command.
ESA will provide continuous updates of Andreas’s activities direct from mission control via the iriss blog and Twitter.
Their return flight is planned for 12 September. They will land in the steppe of Kazakhstan with Andreas returning to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, for debriefing.