In an image that looks more fantastical than real, NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped a photograph of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft with her best friend on board as it hurtled towards the International Space Station after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"What it looks like from @Space_Station when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space. Caught the second stage in progress! We can’t wait to welcome you onboard, crew of Soyuz 61!" she tweeted.
The friend she speaks of is flight engineer Jessica Meir, who arrived with her colleagues – Oleg Skripochka and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori – on the orbital outpost six hours after launch. This is Meir’s first launch into space, where she will live aboard the space station until spring 2020, helping her crewmates with around 250 research experiments, according to NASA.
Christina Koch is currently aboard the space station as part of Expedition 59, 60, and now 61. She is expected to set the women's record for longest single spaceflight with 328 days in space.
The luminous sphere and squiggle above the curve of Earth's horizon is the exhaust from the initial rocket. The launch is Expedition 61, where crew members will perform a series of spacewalks to install new lithium-ion batteries for solar array power channels on the ISS. They will also repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer that helps researchers study dark matter and, you know, just the origins of the universe.
Andrew Morgan, a NASA astronaut currently aboard the ISS who previously worked as an emergency physician in the US Army, also tweeted: “All six members of #Expedition60 packed into the cupola, our window on the Earth, to see this rare spectacle.”