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Astronauts on their way to space station after liftoff from Kazakhstan

March 21 (UPI) — The space station’s newest crew, including two NASA astronauts, successfully blasted off from Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 1:44 p.m. ET, 11:44 p.m. Baikonur time.

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, as well as cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are currently en route to the International Space Station. The trio are expected at ISS by 3:41 p.m. ET on Friday.

NASA’s Scott Tingle, as well as Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, are currently aboard the space station. They will help dock the Soyuz spacecraft and welcome the new crew.

The six-person crew will be together until June, when Tingle, Shkaplerov and Kanai are schedule to return to Earth. Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev will remain on ISS until August.

While onboard, the space station’s crew will carry out a variety of scientific experiments, including the testing of microgravity’s effects on bone marrow and different types of blood cells. With the help of space station astronauts, NASA scientists are working to quantity impacts of spaceflight on human health.

The ISS crew will also test new advanced materials, as well as technologies for growing plants in space. Many of the experiments executed on the space station will help NASA’s scientists and engineers plan for future missions.

The latest crew addition will also provide a boost to the space station’s outreach efforts.

“Arnold, a former educator, will continue NASA’s Year of Education on Station, an initiative to engage students and educators in human spaceflight and science, technology, engineering, and math careers,” NASA wrote in an update.

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