US-Russian Crew Blasts Off for Space Station
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan - A Russian spacecraft blasted off into a clear Central Asian sky Tuesday, carrying a three-man crew on their way to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz TMA-06M lifted off from the rolling steppes of Kazakhstan as scheduled Tuesday afternoon to deliver NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin to the orbiting station.
"I spoke with the astronauts after they reached orbit," Russian Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said. "They feel well. Everything went fine despite the windy conditions."
After a two-day journey, the astronauts will join U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, Russia’s Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan’s JAXA agency.
Of the three who blasted off on Tuesday, only Ford has flown in space before. He spent two weeks in space as pilot of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009 on a mission to transport scientific equipment to the station.
For the first time since 1984, the manned launch took place from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome’s launch pad 31. The pad that is normally used, from which Yury Gagarin launched to become the first human to travel in space in 1961, is undergoing modernization.
The Soyuz craft departing from Baikonur is the only means for astronauts to reach the space station since the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet in 2011.
Manned launches from Baikonur take place about four times a year.