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UT alum begins four month rotation at International Space Station

Astronaut and University of Tennessee Knoxville graduate Randy “Komrade” Bresnik will spend four months at the International Space Station following his flight there aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket Friday.

The rocket departed the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:45 a.m. Friday and docked at the ISS at 5:55 p.m.

“That was the most amazing, smooth rocket ride I’ve ever had,” Bresnik, who has been to space before, said at the hatch-opening ceremony. “I would really like to say thanks on behalf of the three of us to our Russian partners and colleagues for the amazing vehicle that they made.”

His parents, his wife, Rebecca, and their two children, joined him on his trip to the launch pad in Kazakhstan. On a video feed from the ISS, Bresnik waved a small red, white and blue bear his daughter gave him at the camera. “Look who made it with us!” he said to the tired kids.

“We are just so happy to see your successful launch and your arrival at the space station,” his father told him. “We know you’ll enjoy your entire mission.”

Astronaut Jack Fischer tweeted this time-lapsed video from the ISS, adding that this view of an aurora looks like a “burrito of awesomeness smothered in green awesome sauce.” USA TODAY

Bresnik and two other crew members joined three astronauts already at the ISS, restoring the station’s crew to six people.

Together, they will spend more than four months aboard the orbital complex before returning to Earth in December, according to NASA. During that time they will conduct approximately 250 scientific investigations in fields like biology, earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

According to NASA, one of those investigations includes a study developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation that may aid in developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

Bresnik earned his master’s degree in aviation systems through the UT Space Institute program in 2002, according to David Goddard, coordinator of media relations for the UT Tickle College of Engineering. He is a colonel in the United States Marine Corps. He spent most of his military career in aviation and was selected as an astronaut in 2004.

This is Bresnik’s second flight into space after a 2009 mission on the space shuttle Atlantis.

He is among 10 UT alums, including eight others from the UT Space Institute and one from the UT College of Medicine, to have traveled to space.

In the past 35 years, UT astronauts have flown on space shuttles including Columbia, Challenger, Discover, Atlantis and Endeavor, and have been on missions to the Russian space station Mir and the ISS.