Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Soyuz Rocket Launches, Docks Successfully To Relief Of NASA, Russia Space Agency

Soyuz Rocket Launches, Docks Successfully To Relief Of NASA, Russia Space Agency

The first manned space mission to the International Space Station since an unprecedented accident in October, which raised concerns about Moscow's Soviet-designed spacecraft, will launch on Monday.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos docked with the station at 11:33 p.m. (1733 GMT; 12:33 p.m. EST) Monday while flying over 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Ecuador.

The three-person crew's mission was originally scheduled for later this month, but officials brought it forward to avoid the ISS being left unmanned when its current crew return to earth.

They escaped unharmed but the failed launch was the first such incident in Russia's post-Soviet history and a new setback for the country's once proud space industry.

The United States has been relying on its services since 2001 after the space shuttle program shut down.

McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Konenenko will join Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who will train the new crew until their departure on December 20.

The three-man crew appeared briefly before relatives and reporters on Monday morning, waving and blowing kisses as they left a hotel to board a bus on their way to prepare for the flight.

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Click on the video above at 6 a.m. ET to watch live coverage of Saint-Jacques's launch.

In a successful rehearsal for today's flight, a Soyuz cargo vessel took off on 16 November from Baikonur and delivered several tonnes of food, fuel and supplies to the ISS.

The manned mission was the spacecraft's first since October's forced emergency landing.

"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old said.

The Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station, but Russian Federation stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner crew capsules.

The Soyuz was "successfully launched into orbit", Roscosmos wrote on Twitter.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board". The most experienced of the main crew is Kononenko, who went to the ISS for the fourth time, McClane and Saint-Jacques still have no experience of space flights.

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