The Soyuz MS-13 rocket is launched with Expedition 60 Soyuz Cmdr. Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Drew Morgan of NASA and flight engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA on Saturday. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA | License Photo
July 20 (UPI) -- NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan isn't going to the moon, but he celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with a trip to the International Space Station on Saturday.
Morgan was joined inside the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft by Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The trio blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:28 p.m. EDT and docked with the ISS at 6:48 p.m. EDT.
They opened the hatch between the Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS around 9 p.m. EDT. Skvortsov was the first inside the ISS, followed by Morgan and Parmitano.
NASA space station program manager Kirk Shireman congratulated the three-man crew on its successful launch and docking.
"Thank you, Mr. Shireman," Morgan said. "The crew feels great, and I feel great. I've got my first views out the windows of the ISS, and it's beautiful as I imagined. Thanks for everyone's support."
It was 50 years to the day after Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down at Tranquility Base.
Morgan, 43, wasn't born until seven years after the historic feat.
"We have already given a small, small tribute to the Apollo 11 mission and it is represented in the [Expedition 60] patch we are all wearing," Parmitano told reporters Friday. "If you give a close look to our patch, you will see that it is a sort of reflection of the Apollo 11 patch. The Apollo 11 patch had an eagle landing on the moon with the Earth in the background. We reversed that; we have a constellation in the shape of an eagle over the Earth symbolizing that we are close to the Earth for our job. And the moon in the background is in the same phase that it was 50 years ago for the moon landing.
Morgan, Skvortsov and Parmitano will join Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague, who arrived at the orbiting laboratory in March.
"The Expedition 60 crew will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity's only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory," according to NASA.
Over the last week, the three new crew members underwent a variety of medical tests to provide a baseline for comparison. The same tests will be performed when the astronauts return to Earth. The research will help scientists better understand how exposure to microgravity conditions influence human health.