Space Station population temporarily increases to nine
For the first time in nearly two years, nine people reside on board the International Space Station. This population increase took place when the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft docked with the station’s Poisk module on Sept. 4, 2015, for an eight-day direct crew handover.
The hatches between the ISS and Soyuz officially opened at 5:15 a.m. CDT (10:15 GMT) while the station was flying over the Pacific Ocean just west of Peru about 251 miles above the ocean’s surface.
The arriving crew members included Andreas Mogensen, Denmark’s first astronaut, along with Aidyn Aimbetov, the first Kazakh cosmonaut to fly under Kazakhstan’s flag, and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov.
They joined Expedition 44 crew members Oleg Kononenko, Gennady Padalka, Kimiya Yui, Kjell Lindgren, Mikhail Korniyenko. and Scott Kelly. In total, the nine people include representatives from the United States, Russia, Japan, Kazakhstan, and Denmark.
“I don’t think [we’ve had] such a nice representation of countries all at once on board recently,” Volkov said shortly after arriving at the orbiting lab.
The last time nine people were present aboard the station was in November 2013 when the crew of Soyuz TMA-11M brought with them the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
That flight had a spacewalk that included a ceremonial hand-off of the torch from one crew to the other in the vacuum of space.
In 2009, the crew size of the station increased to six people. Since the Soyuz spacecraft can only carry three people, six person expeditions must be split into two parts. Usually, crews are replaced via an indirect handover, where three people leave in their Soyuz, temporarily decreasing the crew size to three. About a month later, the replacement crew launches to bring the total back up to six.
Because two crew members, Kelly and Korniyenko, are scheduled to remain on the station for a whole year, a direct handover is needed to replace Padalka, who launched with them in March 2015. Volkov will take Padalka’s place as he will be returning with Aimbetov and Mogensen on Sept. 11.
Sarah Brightman, a British singer and paying space tourist, was scheduled to launch with this Soyuz instead of Aimbetov. However, on May 13, 2015, Brightman announced she was withdrawing from training for personal, family reasons. Her backup, Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Takamatsu, also withdrew because the art projects he had planned to take with him to the station would not have been ready by September. In June, it was announced that Aimbetov would fly in their place.
Expedition 45 officially begins when Soyuz TMA-16M, which has been at the station since March, leaves with Padalka, Mogensen, and Aimbetov next Friday. Kelly will take over command of the station from Padalka before closing the hatch.
Volkov will stay on the space station and leave with Kelly and Korniyenko in March 2016 in Soyuz TMA-18M. Lindgren, Kononenko, and Yui will return to Earth in December 2015.
Video courtesy of NASA
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity.