Saint-Jacques has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for December 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch. Arrived at the station the members of the expedition MKS-58/59 Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronauts and the Canadian space Agency Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques.
These crewmembers will be aboard the ISS during the first test flights of the NASA Commercial Crew Program that will see astronauts being able to get into space from the USA for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, assuming test flights go well.
The past few months had been tense at Roscosmos, Russia's space agency. This was the first manned voyage of the Soyuz since October 11, when a rocket carrying Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and United States astronaut Nick Hague failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the two astronauts to make a harrowing emergency landing.
Despite October's emergency landing, however, astronauts expressed continued confidence on the Soyuz. At a press conference on the eve of the launch, crew commander Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" trusted teams preparing for the flight. "We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur onboard".
"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old said.
NASA also repeatedly dispelled drama between the two space agencies in the past, promising continued cooperation. Roscosmos has experienced a series of setbacks in the past couple of months, including a mysterious hole in one of the docked capsules in the ISS.
In recent years Russia's debt-laden space industry has suffered a number of mishaps including the loss of cargo spacecraft and satellites. NASA has awarded multi-billion dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Program. Its current crew - Sergey Prokopyev, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Commander Alexander Gerst - will return to Earth on December 20.
In March, the station will again return to a full complement of six crew members when they are joined for Expedition 59 by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos. The trio will return to Earth in October 2019.