President Trump called the International Space Station Monday for a videochat watched by thousands of school kids, congratulating commander Peggy Whitson on becoming America’s most experienced astronaut and jokingly promising to get Americans to Mars “during my first term or, at worst, during my second term.”
Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, on his fifth trip into space, and rookie NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, a Colorado native, blasted off aboard a Soyuz booster at 0713 GMT (3:13 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, heading for the International Space Station for a four-and-a-half month expedition. The duo docked with the orbiting outpost at 1318 GMT (9:18 a.m. EDT).
Just 10 days after three space station fliers returned to Earth — and two days after launch of a station-bound supply ship — a veteran four-flight cosmonaut and an enthusiastic NASA rookie were cleared for launch Thursday to boost the lab’s crew up to five — one less than usual because of cost cutting by the Russian space agency.
Outgoing space station commander Shane Kimbrough and two Russian crewmates returned to Earth on Monday, riding a Soyuz capsule in a bubble of hot plasma to a parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan. The trio undocked from the space station at 0757 GMT (3:57 a.m. EDT) and landed on the Kazakh steppe at 1120 GMT (7:20 a.m. EDT) Monday.