October 23, 2012
Credit: Credit: NASA
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russians and an American blasted off on Tuesday for the International Space Station (ISS), where the men are to spend five months in orbit.
The Russian-built Soyuz TMA-06M lifted off on time from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan for the two-day trip to the station, orbiting about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
“The space ship has entered orbit,” an announcer at the mission control centre in Korolyov, outside Moscow, said nine minutes later, prompting a cheer from flight engineers, space officials and relatives watching on a giant screen.
“Everything went well. There was a small issue with pressure on board but we fixed it immediately,” Vladimir Solovyov, flight director for the Russian segment of the space station, told journalists.
U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford is making his second space voyage, while cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin are on their first mission.
In footage from the cramped capsule, Tarelkin pumped his spacesuited fist after the successful lift-off while a stuffed toy hippopotamus donated by one of the cosmonauts’ daughters as a good luck charm floated in zero gravity as the craft reached orbit.
The trio will join the current ISS crew, Yuri Malenchenko of Russia, Sunita Williams of the United States and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan, who are to return to Earth on Nov. 12.
Another crew of three will join Novitsky, Tarelkin and Ford aboard the station, a $100 billion research complex funded by 15 nations, in late December.
The rocket carrying the Soyuz craft lifted off from a launch pad at Baikonur that had not been used for a manned mission in 30 years. The platform had been renovated so that it could be used while the main pad used for manned launches is refurbished.