Washington: On a second US record-breaking mission for 2016, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, with cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are set to begin their five-and-a-half-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 18.
The Expedition 47 crew is scheduled to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 19.
During the mission, Williams will become the new US record holder for cumulative days in space -- 534 -- surpassing Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly who wrapped up his one-year mission on March 1.
Williams will take command of the station on June 4 for Expedition 48. This will be his third space station expedition which is another record, the US space agency said in a statement.
The new crew members will be greeted by Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) on the ISS.
Together, the Expedition 47 crew members will continue the several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science currently underway and scheduled to take place aboard humanity’s only orbiting laboratory.
Williams, Ovchinin and Skripochka are scheduled to spend six months on the station, returning to Earth in early September 2016.
Kelly will retire from NASA effective April 1.
He will continue to participate in the ongoing research related to his one-year mission, providing periodic medical samples and supporting other testing in the same way his twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, made himself available for NASA's twins study during his brother's mission.
Kelly joined the astronaut corps in 1996 and flew in space four times. He completed a 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station earlier this month, the longest continuous stay in space for an American astronaut.
Kelly also broke the American record for most cumulative time in space during his one-year mission, accruing 520 days.
"Scott's contributions to NASA are too many to name," said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston.