The International Space Station (ISS) just doubled its manpower with the arrival of three new crew members on July 28. The astronauts are from the United States, Russia, and Italy.
After a six-hour spaceflight from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launchpad in Kazakhstan, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Russian Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Italian Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, arrived to join Expedition 52.
The crew will conduct approximately 250 investigations in a range of fields from biology and Earth science, to human research, physical sciences, and technology development.
In one study, developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, crew members will grow LRRK2, an important protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease. In microgravity, scientists can grow larger versions of the protein, while on Earth, the proteins end up too small and too compact to study.
The astronauts will also assemble and deploy a microsatellite related to the development of lower-cost Earth imagery for time-sensitive situations like tracking severe weather or detecting natural disasters.
The three new arrivals will stay aboard the orbiting laboratory until December. In September, the three who were already there—Cmdr. Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia, and NASA’s Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer—will return home. They will be replaced by two more NASA astronauts—Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba—and Russian Alexander Misurkin. That will mark the start of Expedition 53.
The ISS has hosted more than 200 crew members from 18 countries over the last 16 years. The $100 billion space lab orbits about 250 miles above Earth.