Two rockets are poised to launch one day after another to replenish the International Space Station with a new crew and cargo carrying UK science.
The crew includes two new astronauts, Anne McClain (USA), who studied at the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, and David Saint-Jacques(Canada), who studied at Cambridge University. They join veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in blasting off to space on a Russian Soyuz crew ship from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11.31am (GMT) on 3 December.
Their six-and-a-half-month mission involves the first launch of a Soyuz rocket since the emergency landing of a capsule just after launch on 11 October 2018.
The following day (Tuesday 4 December) at 6.38pm GMT, SpaceX will launch its Dragon cargo craft from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket. On board will be the first UK-led experiment to head to the ISS, which uses worms to look at muscle loss in space and could lead to new treatments for muscular conditions for people on Earth.
The team of scientists from Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster universities involved in this project hope to discover more about muscle loss in space, which in turn could lead to developing effective therapies and new treatments for muscular dystrophies. The research could also help boost our understanding of ageing muscle loss and even help improve treatments for diabetes.
Libby Jackson, Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency, said: “The launch of the Soyuz means crews will continue to work on the unique science taking place on the ISS, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. It is also exciting to see the first of many UK-led experiments heading to the space station. I look forward to seeing the results which will benefit our understanding of muscle loss and help to improve life on Earth.”