Russia’s Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft carrying three astronauts has safely docked at the International Space Station (ISS). The three astronauts are Terry Virts of the United States, Anton Shkaplerov of Russia, and Samantha Cristoforetti, the first ever Italian female astronaut. NASA said in a statement that the Soyuz capsule arrived at the orbiting space lab at 2:49 GMT on Monday.


NASA relies on Russian spacecraft Soyuz

The Soyuz capsule blasted off from the Russian manned launch station in Baikonur, Kazakhstan into the pre-dawn darkness at 3:00 AM local time (9:48 PM ET). It docked with the ISS just 5 hours 48 minutes after the launch. It was only the second time in history that two women are aboard the ISS on long-term missions. Since retiring its space shuttle, NASA relies on Russia to send its astronauts to the ISS. It costs the U.S. space agency $70-$80.6 million per person in Soyuz.

The new crew will join three others already aboard the ISS, including Russian female astronaut Elana Serova. Cristoforetti is a captain in the Italian Air Force. She had received years of training for her first space mission. She will work as a flight engineer for ISS expeditions 42 and 43. Cristoforetti has logged over 500 hours flying military aircraft. She joined the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2009.

What astronauts will be studying

Finally, astronauts aboard the orbiting station will be able to enjoy coffee. The ISS will get a specially designed coffee machine that can work in zero gravity. The 20kg ISSpresso coffeemaker was designed by Argotec engineering firm and Italian coffee company Lavazza. The new astronauts will stay on the ISS until May 2015. Their duty includes the first taste test of espresso in space.

They will also be working on technological demonstrations and scientific investigations during their six-month trip. According to NASA, scientists will be studying the effect of aerosols in the atmosphere, and will look at the genetic makeup of roundworms. Researchers will grow four generations of worms to study whether the effect of having zero gravity is passed on through the family.