A Soyuz MS-08 rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today, carrying with it two NASA astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut bound for the International Space Station. They have a comprehensive plan for the next five months.

Soyuz MS-08
Soyuz MS-08 launches into the night sky.

The launch comes at a time of increased tensions between Russia and the United States. Yet experts note that the two sides continue working together in space.

The three astronauts will join NASA’s Scott Tingle, Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Together, they will be performing over 250 different experiments and projects.
They will conduct the experiments in the new testing facility of ISS called the primary Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) platform. They can test materials, coatings, and components or other larger experiments in the harsh environment of space. These experiments can’t be performed on Earth. Apart from performing these experiments, the Soyuz MS-08 mission astronauts will be the test subject of experiments designed by scientists on earth themselves.

The Soyuz MS-08 crew poses for a picture. NASA's Ricky Arnold, left, Russia's Oleg Artemyev, center, and NASA's Drew Feustel are set to launch to the ISS on March 21, 2018. Photo Credit: Joel Kowsky / NASA

Effect of extreme low gravity on bone marrow and the blood produced in the same will be studied.They’re also going to test a new system for delivering nutrients and sufficient lighting to the plants—the Vegetable Production System, or Veggie—that will hopefully allow astronauts to grow salad-like crops in space.

On the August 8th, Artemyev and Sergei Prokopyev who will join the Soyuz crew in June, will perform a spacewalk to install the equipment on the outer surface of ISS for ICARUS project. ICARUS project was undertaken to monitor the migration patterns of wild animals and birds from space. The cosmonauts will also deploy some nano-satellites, the purpose of which is not known yet.

Today’s Soyuz Launch also included an official FIFA 2018 World Cup football which will be returned to Earth to be used in the first match of the championship in Russia in June. Shkaplerov, Tingle, and Kanai will leave the ISS in June 2018, and Feustel, Arnold, and Artemyev will leave in August.

US and Russia in this mad space race, have always tried to outdo each other. This has caused some major losses in the past. However, The Apollo-Soyuz mission served to show that the two sides could work together in cooperation towards safety.

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