No space event is ever "regular", even if it is a hop, skip and jump manoeuvre to the International Space Station (ISS). After all, it isn't everyday and for everyone to be involved with a space mission. As a result, at the stroke of the start of the NASA mission that sends three premier astronauts up to the ISS, it is perhaps one of the most significant lift-offs to the Space Station that has occurred in the recent past.
In case you missed the launch, watch it here:
The USA is also making a special address marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission. Watch it live here:
Commencing at 10:30PM IST, NASA is live-streaming its latest trip to the ISS, which will send NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano of Italy and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov to join fellow astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Russia. The latter three have already been residents of the ISS for a while, with Koch in particular being on a pivotal mission as NASA continues to study the effects of long-term spaceflight on human body. Koch is also expected to set the record for longest spaceflight to date by a female astronaut, designated to stay on until February 2020 aboard the ISS. The three-member team slated to lift-off in a few minutes are expected to keep her company, and NASA's Morgan is even slated to stay on longer.
Beyond the scientific relevance of the experiments, tests and studies that the astronauts will be conducting up in space, today marks a particularly pivotal time in mankind's history and tryst with space. 50 years ago, the Apollo 11 mission took off for the moon, and took the iconic "giant leap for mankind" way back in 1969. Although manned moon missions were halted in 1972, mankind today is far more advanced in technology, scientific research, outer space knowledge and almost every other aspect. The ISS has been a pivot in space research, and has been steadily contributing invaluable data as we prepare for longer term missions such as Mars, or even manned missions that fly beyond the Red Planet.
Interestingly, today also marks one of the last few missions that NASA is expected to fly with the Russian Soyuz module, before SpaceX and Boeing start operating their manned crew modules to and from the ISS. 50 years on, space technology is looking to break new barriers with reusable rockets that are safer than before, cost lesser and tend to be more precise in their technologies. The live stream of the launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan is now live, and is suitably happening in presence of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, one of the three astronauts who flew to the moon 50 years ago.