Soyuz Rocket Launched to International Space Station with Three Astronauts

In an event live streamed on NASA TV, Expedition 56 saw its three new crew members take off successfully heading for the orbital space laboratory. 
Loukia Papadopoulos
The photo credit line may appear like thisNASA

Three astronauts began their two-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Soyuz rocket today. The event, which was live streamed by NASA, began at 6:15 a.m. EDT, while the rocket lifted from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch facility in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. EDT.

The crew on board the rocket were NASA astronaut, physician and engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and European Space Agency astronaut and geophysicist Alexander Gerst. The rocket used was a Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. 

The spacecraft had a unique special livery at its base featuring the official 2018 World Cup emblem designed to commemorate the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia. In addition, prime and backup crews signed a commemorative football during a special ceremony organized in honor of the games.

Arriving at ISS end of week

The astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the orbital space laboratory by the end of the week and spend the next five-and-a-half months in low orbit above the planet. This will be Gerst's second flight into space and the first for the other two travelers.

Gerst spent 165 days aboard the station in 2014 in Expedition 42. Nevertheless, he seemed equally excited for this trip.

“Driving to the rocket, on Gagarin’s launch pad,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “There she is, ready, steaming, alive, in all her beauty. I will need to give her another friendly tap before we climb in. Can’t wait to feel those engines in my back. Poyekhali!

"Poyekhali!" is a Russian expression, best translated as "We're off," that was attributed to Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin 50 years ago. It is said that the intrepid spaceman shouted the expression as his Vostok spacecraft lifted off.

Expedition 56

The current NASA mission is called Expedition 56 and began on June 1 2018 with the departure of the Soyuz MS-07. “The crew members of Expedition 56-57 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the International Space Station, humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory," said NASA in a statement.

The team will join Expedition 56 commander and geophysicist Drew Feustel and flight engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos. The new crew is set to conduct approximately 250 science investigations.


In some rather unfortunate news, Expedition 56 originally included NASA astronaut and flight engineer Jeanette Epps, who would have been the first African-American crew member on the ISS. However, Epps was canceled from the mission in January without much of an explanation.

NASA said Epps will be working out of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and may potentially be assigned to future missions. The Space Station has had other African-American visiting astronauts but Epps would have been the first long-term crew member.



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