WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The current main ISS Expedition 44 crew comprises Russian cosmonauts Commander Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko, and NASA’s Scott Kelly.
"Spaceflight assignment is one of the highlights of my job, and this is made even more special when that person has not yet flown in space," Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said on Friday as quoted in a NASA statement.
The first-time space flyers include NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Jack Fischer, both of whom are members of NASA’s 2009 Astronaut Class.
Vande Hei will fly to the ISS together with Russian space agency Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Nikolai Tikhonov, also a first-time flyer, in March 2017. They will join the Expedition 51 crew consisting of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy.
Fischer will be part of the May 2017 Expedition 52 mission to the ISS. He will fly along with Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikin and ESA’s Paolo Nespoli, with the three of them set to join Vande Hei, Misurkin and Tikhonov.
Last week, a Soyuz spacecraft brought a backup crew of Russia’s Oleg Kononenko, Japan’s Kimiya Yui and NASA’s Kjell Lindgren to the ISS.
On Friday, Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said it had approved Expedition 45/46 prime and the backup crews scheduled to be sent to the ISS on September 2.