Multinational crew blasts off, bound for space station


19 November, 2016

That's because Whitson will be celebrating her birthday aboard the International Space Station in February, after becoming the oldest woman in space Thursday when she launched off from Kazakhstan. Whitson became the first woman to serve as commander of the ISS during her last mission from 2007-2008.

This afternoon, three astronauts launched on a two-day journey to chase down the International Space Station (ISS). - Reuters picBy the time she returns to Earth in six months, she will have accumulated more time in orbit than any other U.S. astronaut, surpassing the 534-day record set in September by astronaut Jeff Williams.

Thomas Pesquet is the youngest member of the European Astronaut Corps, a space programme that selects, trains, and provides astronauts as crew members on USA and Russian space missions. They will join the three-man crew now aboard the station.

If all goes according to plan, we could see future flights resume the standard four-orbit rendezvous profiles, which places crews on board the station within six hours as opposed to two days.

Born on a farm in rural Iowa, near Mount Ayr, Whitson worked hard to make her dream of space exploration a reality - even selling chickens from her holding to save money for a pilot's license.

This will be Pesquet's first experience as an ISS crew member.

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She is riding the Soyuz with the 45-year-old experienced Russian cosmonaut and the French astronaut, who is making his maiden flight into space.

The launch of the trio had been postponed by two days.

Whitson said the fancy French food would be a welcome change on the ISS. For the record, Peggy Whitson has already spent 377 days in space and performed multiple spacewalks.

"The most important thing about the station is the friendships and the work we accomplish there", Reuters reported Whitson as saying during a news conference in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. "And I might not live that long, so they better get with it!" as stated by the Telegraph. It carries 3 crews from the United States, Russia, and France. Also, new lithium ion batteries will be replaced by the nickel-hydrogen batteries now used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station's solar arrays.

"Some of those fine details we don't know yet", Whitson said.

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