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In the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 50-51 crew members Peggy Whitson of NASA (left), Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos, center) and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (right
Mission marks the first time that a woman will become commander of the space station twice

Expedition 50/51,  the 50th crew rotation to man the International Space Station, will launch on Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The crew will launch at 20:20 GMT in a Russian built Soyuz MS-03 rocket, and spend two days orbiting Earth before docking with the space station’s Rassvet module.

The three crew members, NASA's Peggy Whitson, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian space agency will spend six months aboard the ISS.

NASA Johnson/ NASA/Alexander Vysotsky

According to NASA, during their mission, the crew which will be joining three more already aboard the station, will be conducting hundreds of experiments in the fields of biotechnology, biology, physical science and Earth science.

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov have been aboard the ISS since October.

Kirill Kudryavtsev (AFP)

This mission marks the first time that a woman- Peggy Whitson- will become commander of the space station twice.

Whitson was also the first woman to serve as commander of the station, during a previous mission in 2007.

The ISS space laboratory has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) an hour since 1998.

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