Peggy Whitson becomes the first woman to command the International Space Station, at the age of 56. Image Source: NASA

On Saturday, the Soyuz capsule carrying the astronauts Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet, and Peggy Whitson arrived and docked at the International Space Station. With her arrival at the ISS, Whitson became the oldest female astronaut at the age of 56.

The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday afternoon (Friday morning local time). The three cosmonauts represent Roscosmos, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NASA respectively.

Now on the ISS, Novitskiy, Pesquet, and Whitson will join three Expedition 50 astronauts currently aboard the station since October. Peggy Whitson will become the Commander of the ISS on February after the three men depart back to Earth.

Peggy Whitson during a test before her journey to the International Space Station. Image Source: NBC News
Peggy Whitson during a test before her journey to the International Space Station. Image Source: NBC News

What are Expedition 50 and Expedition 51’s objectives?

Over the course of six months, the newly arrived cosmonauts will conduct 250 experiments and investigations in the fields of biology, physical science, and biotechnology.

The American Shane Kimbrough serves as Commander of Expedition 50, and the Russian engineers Sergey Ryzhikov, and Andrei Borisenko of Roscosmos are his officials.

The new Russian, French, and American crewmembers arrived on Saturday will complete a team of six on the ISS. The cosmonaut group will research space-grown plants and their development, the effect of lighting in the space station crew, and tissue regeneration in humans in orbit.

Peggy Whitson will continue to break records in space

Expedition 50 will be over once Kimbrough, Ryzhikov, and Borisenko depart from the ISS to go back to Earth in February 2017. Whitson will then break yet another record by becoming the first and oldest woman to command the ISS twice.

Whitson will be the Commander of Expedition 51, which will continue the investigations of Expedition 50’s endeavors with the team of three that arrived on Saturday to the ISS.

Two more crewmembers, Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, will complete a team of five to carry out Expedition 51 from March to May. The 56-year-old astronaut became the first woman to lead an ISS mission nearly a decade ago in 2007 when she commanded the efforts of Expedition 16.

Peggy Whitson, who will also celebrate her 57th birthday in space, will continue to prolong her 400-day record as the woman who has spent the most time in orbit.

Moreover, she will also break the record for most time spent in space by any American, topping Jeff Williams’ 534 days when she returns back to Earth on May 2017.

Source: NASA

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