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3 astronauts, 32 fish and a hippo en route to the ISS


3 astronauts, 32 fish and a hippo en route to the ISS

A veteran Russian cosmonaut will be joined by a rookie French flight engineer and NASA’s most experience female astronaut aboard a 310-tonne Soyuz rocket as it takes off for a two-flight to the International Space Station.

Oleg Novitsky, Thomas Pesquet and Peggy Whitson will not see their nearest-and-dearest again until their return to Earth in May 2017.

The lift off – as it happens

Nine minutes after take-off, the Soyuz MS-03 module will separate from the rocket as it prepares for orbit 200 kilometres above the Earth.

The team of three will then spend 48 hours in the 2.5 metre-long module.

They will line up with the ISS, which travels at 28,000 kilometres an hour and at 400 kilometres above the Earth.

Join-up should happen on Saturday 19th of November.

The launch was to have taken place last week but was put back for technical reasons.

The crew

45-year-old Oleg Novitsky is a veteran space traveller.

The former Russian air force pilot, who has just become a father, spent five months on the ISS between 2012 and 2013.

56-year-old NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has clocked-up 376 days in space, including six spacewalks. She has already done two tours on the ISS.

38-year-old French engineer Thomas Pesquet is the tenth French national to into space and the first since 2008. He is labelled as “the rookie”.

Fish and hippos

The trio have been joined on the trip by 32 fish.

Tests will be carried out to see how well they adapt to the lack of gravity.

Each Soyuz flight also carries a “zero-g” gravity indicator, usually a soft toy attached with a string.

This time around it is a hippo. When the toy begins to float, the crew know they are in orbit.

In his six months on the ISS, French engineer Thomas Pesquet will:

  • Carry out 62 experiments
  • Will participate in 55 others
  • Will study the effect of weightlessness on muscle tone
  • Will study water purification methods

Space food – it’s not as bad as you might think

“We are taking food made by a top chef with us”, Thomas Pesquet told reporters at the final press conference before departure.

Beef with foie gras, turkey supreme with mushrooms and duck breast have been prepared for the New Year celebrations by chefs Alain Ducasse and Thierry Marx.


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