American, Russian, UAE arrive on International Space Station

First spaceflight for NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, UAE space traveler

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

The Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft is launched with Expedition 61 crew members Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 from the…

A multinational crew, including the first space traveler from the United Arab Emirates, successfully blasted off Wednesday for a mission on the International Space Station arriving six hours later for docking at the orbiting laboratory.

A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off as scheduled at 6:57 p.m. (1357 GMT) Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka, of Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, from the UAE, docked at the orbiting outpost six hours later.

The mission is the third spaceflight for Skripochka and the first for Meir and Almansoori.

It will temporarily  be a packed house when the three new residents arrive.   

NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin, along with European astronaut Luca Parmitano will be there to welcome the three new crew members around 3:45 p.m. for docking at the space station.  

Koch, who has been living on the ISS since March, was excited to see the launch from space, sharing an image of the plume created by the Soyuz launch.

"What it looks like from (the) Space Station when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space," Koch said in a tweet. "Caught the second stage in progress! We can't wait to welcome you onboard, crew of Soyuz 61!"

Koch is expected to set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman totaling 328 days in space, according to NASA.

Space traveler vs astronaut?

Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates, left, and Expedition 61 prime crew members Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Jessica Meir of NASA, pose for a photograph, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 at the Cosmonaut Hotel…

Almansoori is on an eight-day mission under a contract between the UAE and Roscosmos. He will return to Earth Oct. 3 along with Hague and Ovchinin on the Soyuz spacecraft, landing in Kazakhstan.

The UAE space explorer is not classified as an astronaut expedition member but called a spaceflight participant to differentiate him from long-duration ISS crew members, according to a NASA spokesperson.

However, NASA did refer to Almansoori as an astronaut during the livestream of the launch and docking procedures Wednesday.

Meir and all other NASA astronauts must undergo two years of training that includes learning the International Space Station systems, spacewalking, robotics, jet training and the Russian language.

Spaceflight participants undergo limited training "that neither covers as many disciplines nor goes into as much detail," according to a NASA spokesperson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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