A week after three crew members landed back on Earth after their 141-day shift on the International Space Station (ISS), including NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, three new astronauts took their place.
American astronaut Timothy Kopra, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko, and England’s Tim Peake were ferried by a Soyuz spacecraft to the orbiting laboratory on Wednesday. They will join American astronaut Scott Kelly, who in March will become the the first American to spend an uninterrupted year on the ISS, and crewmates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Russia.
“Hi From #ISS,” tweeted Mr. Peake, a former helicopter pilot, on December 16. He’s the first British astronaut on the space station, though he currently works for the European Space Agency in Cologne, Germany. “What an incredible ride to space yesterday; Soyuz felt so smooth and powerful,” he continued.
In a press conference with journalists on Friday that was streamed live by video, the exuberant Mr. Peake said the most unexpected thing during his first couple of days aboard the ISS has been “the blackness of space.”
“We always talk about seeing the view of planet Earth and how beautiful it is,” Peake said as he floated in the station. “But what people don’t mention as much is that when you look in the opposite direction and you see how dark it is ... I mean, it’s the blackest black.”
During the live event Peak was peppered with the questions that naturally arise about life in outer space: How do you shower? (with wet flannels rags); How do you feel? (first 24 hours were rough, but the body has quickly adapted); What is the feeling of zero gravity? (like your first time skiing); Are you still in love with science? (yes); Does tea taste different in space? (it’s surprisingly good).
Peake is on a six-month mission called Principia, for which he’s trained six years, says the ESA. While in space, he will work on dozens of experiments that include growing crystals and blood vessels, simulating atomic structures, and tracking how the brain adapts to stressful situations.
The space lab, which travels at a speed of five miles per second, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes, has hosted astronauts from 83 countries since November 2000, all doing research on Earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences, and technology to address the challenges explorers from Earth may face as they prepare to travel to Mars and beyond.
The latest crop of space station residents has received many messages of support from their home countries. Some of England’s most famous residents, like Elton John and Queen Elizabeth, have taken to social media to offer support to their astronaut.