American, Russian arrive at International Space Station

US astronaut Jack Fischer, above, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station, ISS, wave near the rocket prior the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, April 20, 2017.

That seat will be filled by Whitson when Yurchikhin and Fischer return to Earth Sept. 3 to close out a planned 135-day mission.

During Expeditions 51 and 52, Fischer and Yurchikhin will help with hundreds of experiments and oversee the arrival and departure of Russian and US visiting vehicles - the first of which, Orbital ATK's S.S. John Glenn Cygnus cargo freighter, is set to berth at the space station on Saturday (April 22).

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, a pair of astronauts are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Yurchikhin is a 58-year-old father of two who holds a Ph.D.in economics.

Soyuz crewmate Yurchikhin has made four previous spaceflights. She plans to returns to Earth in September. With a combined 537 days in orbit, he is one of the world's most experienced space fliers.

He will become the 38th Air Force Academy graduate to become an astronaut. The new avionics box is arriving aboard Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft on Saturday, April 22.

The ISS laboratory, a rare example of American and Russian global cooperation, has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

Whitson, who on Monday (April 24) will surpass the record for the most time spent in space by an American astronaut - 534 days and counting, in the course of her three flights - recently had her own stay extended.

The launch was carried out from the Russian-leased launch facility of Baikonur, carrying 70 kilograms of food products.

According to NASA, Fischer is a first-time space flier, whereas Yurchikhin is a veteran of four spaceflights.

  • Carolyn Briggs