A Russian-US trio is heading for the International Space Station (ISS) today aboard a Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft, which blasted off at 10.51am (GMT)/6.51am (EMT) from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The spacecraft is carrying NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin to the ISS, where they will join NASA’s Sunita Williams, Russia’s Yuri Malenchenko and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, who landed at the space station in July.
"I think it’s going to be something special, and I will get unforgettable memories," said Novitskiy in a NASA briefing before today’s launch. The space mission will be the second one for Ford, while it will mark Novitskiy’s and Tarelkin’s first trip into space.
The Soyuz spacecraft is set to dock at the ISS at 12.35pm (GMT) or 8.35am (EMT) on Thursday, 24 October.
According to Space.com, 32 medaka fish are also aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. Apparently, they will be used as part of a science experiment at the ISS to study the affects of microgravity on fish.
Since the decommissioning of the US space shuttle programme in 2011, Soyuz is the only means for astronauts to reach the ISS. Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin are set to remain aboard the space station until March 2013.
From bottom: Soyuz commander and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy; flight engineer and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford; and flight engineer cosmonaut Evgeny Tarelkin, before boarding their Soyuz rocket. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls