NASA Astronaut and Marine Corps Col. Randy Bresnik will join his record-breaking colleague Peggy Whitson on the International Space Station Friday.
Bresnik, who flew combat missions as a Marine pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom, blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:41 a.m. ET. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency are accompanying Bresnik on the six-hour trip aboard a Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.
The trio will spend more than four months together on the ISS before returning to Earth in December. NASA says that Bresnik will perform a host of experiments in space, which include investigating how microgravity affects stem cells and the factors that govern stem cell activity.
Bresnik, like his fellow crewmembers, will also see the Great American Solar Eclipse a total of three times, Space.com reports. With the space station orbiting Earth every 92 minutes, ISS crew will get multiple chances to catch the four-hour eclipse on Aug. 21.
The veteran, who was selected as an astronaut in May 2004, is making his second trip to the ISS and his first long-duration mission. In 2009, he flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis to the station.
Bresnik, Ryazanskiy and Nespoli are expected to reach the space station at 6 p.m. ET.
In April, Whitson clinched the record for most days in space by an American when she clocked up a cumulative 534 days. This is Whitson’s third long-duration stay on the International Space Station – she will have spent more than 650 days in space by the time she returns to Earth in September.
No stranger to records, Whitson became the first woman to command the International Space Station in 2008, and on April 9 2017 became the first woman to command it twice. In March, she also clinched the record for most spacewalks by a female.
In addition to Whitson, Bresnik will also join fellow NASA astronaut Jack Fischer on the ISS.
U.S. Air Force Col. Fischer arrived at the ISS in April and is scheduled to return to Earth in September.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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