There are currently nine astronauts aboard the International Space Station, all of which trying to conduct separate experiments, research, and maintenance work for their respective space agencies back on Earth.
Luca Parmitano, an astronaut representing the European Space Agency snapped a photo and uploaded it on Twitter showing off that the ISS is unusually crammed with nine astronauts.
Parmitano captioned his photo: “Celebrating 3 birthdays in one week (Me + @AstroHague & Alexey), wearing the t-shirts of our ‘space band’: ‘Kryk Chayky’ – ‘The cry of the seagull’,” referring to a particularly celebratory post about birthdays coming up within the week.
Interestingly, Parmitano’s photo shows that there the currently stationed astronauts represent four different space agencies, namely: U.S.’ NASA, The European Union’s ESA, Russia’s Roscosmos, and the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).
Six of the stationed astronauts are from the Expedition 69 crew, namely: Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin, Nick Hague, Andrew Morgan, Alexander Skvortsov, and Parmitano. Three of the spacemen arrived at the ISS on July 20 and will return to Earth sometime in December or January. Significantly, three of the men (Parmitano, Ovchinin, and Hague) are celebrating birthdays this week.
Meanwhile, the new residents are NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, who will spend six months in space as members of Expedition 61, and the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fly into space, Hazzaa Ali AlMansoori. The three launched onboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft last Wednesday (September 25) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan shortly before 7 p.m. local time, and arrived at the space lab about six hours later.
On a regular basis, the 930 cubic meter, or 32,840 cubic feet, space station (total pressurized volume of the ISS), caters to three to six astronauts at a time. However, an overlap of space missions has recently added three new members resulting in the current total of nine.
Furthermore, the orbiting laboratory will be unusually crowded until Thursday (October 3), when three of those crewmembers are scheduled to return to Earth. Notably, there have been nine crewmembers onboard the space laboratory since last Wednesday (September 25).
Nine, on the other hand, is not at all an alarming number for the orbiting space laboratory. Notably, the ISS in the past has been capable of sustaining much more.
In 2009, the ISS set a new record for hosting its highest number of astronauts with a total of 13. Additionally, this is not the first time, the last time there were nine people on board was in 2015.
Fortunately, astronauts on the ISS will only have to experience the unusual number until October 3rd when three of the astronauts will be scheduled to make their return to Earth.
Astronauts AlMansoori will return to Earth this Thursday on the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft, accompanied by NASA astronaut Nick Hague and ISS commander Alexey Ovchinin, both of whom will have completed more than 200 days in space.
AlMansoori, on the other hand, will have completed around 8 days in space. Particularly, UAE’s first astronaut’s brief visit is part of an intergovernmental contract between the UAE and Roscosmos, according to NASA. Mainly, the flight is part of Roscosmos’ “spaceflight participant” program, which allows individuals who are not part of the Russian space agency to hitch a ride on short-duration flights to the ISS.
Ovchinin, who is currently the commander of Expedition 60, will hand over command of the ISS to Parmitano on Wednesday (October 2), marking the official beginning of Expedition 61.