Expedition 51 astronauts prepare for April 20 launch

By on
International Space Station (ISS) crew members US astronaut Jack Fischer (R) and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin walk during a traditional farewell ceremony in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, April 5, 2017. Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

Two astronauts are in Russia in the last leg of preparations for their big mission for the International Space Station (ISS) on April 20. American astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin graced the traditional sendoff ceremony for them in Moscow, Russia.

Fischer is a member of the NASA Astronaut Group 20, intended to be a flight engineer for Expedition 5152 to the ISS. He has successfully crossed over from the classrooms of the Air Force Academy to the skies above Iraq and Afghanistan in an F-15 and to the cockpit of an F-22 as a test pilot. 

Fischer takes on the big role of being America's newest astronaut when he blasts off in a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, bound for the ISS. He will be spending months in space to help conduct around 300 experiments.

The experiments will cover just about everything from new tech exploration to creating lighter and stronger alloys to new medicines. Floating in orbit will be a dream come true for Fischer.

He shared that when he was a kid, he was awed by the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where his grandfather used to work. He said he was awestruck by the massive Saturn V rocket that lay on its side there. "I just walked up to it and thought it was the coolest thing that I had ever seen," Fischer stated.

Fischer’s Expedition 51 crewmate is Russian cosmonaut of Greek descent Fyodor Yurchikhin. The latter has undertaken two further long-duration stays aboard the ISS. He served as flight engineer for Expedition 36 and ISS commander for Expedition 37.

The two have been in the thick of qualification exams and training for the past several weeks. The next move: check out their Soyuz MS-04 rocket and launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

From the ISS, commander Shane Kimbrough and two flight engineers will be ending their space mission and coming home. NASA’s Peggy Whitson will be taking command of the station before Kimbrough and his crewmates leave, NASA reported on its website. Joining Whitson will be European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos.

Whitson and team members have been commended for a job well done. Kimbrough and Whitson conducted the 199th spacewalk in support of station maintenance and assembly. The NASA astronaut inspired many people, who witnessed through time-lapse videos on social media how she and her crewmates carried out their mission successfully nowithstanding a few setbacks.