A joint US-Russian crew aboard a Soyuz rocket launched successfully on Friday, heading for the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42 (09:42 CEST) aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.
They are set to dock at the station after a two-orbit, three-hour journey. During their mission, the crew will work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.
The launch comes three days before the 60th anniversary of the first human flight to space by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the 40th anniversary of the first launch of NASA’s space shuttle.
At the International Space Station, the trio will join NASA’s Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
It is the second space mission for Vande Hei and the third for Novitskiy, while Dubrov is on his first mission.