December 21, 2011
New Space Station Expedition Crew Launches From Russia
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A three man crew blasted off from Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on Wednesday morning bound for the International Space Station.
NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit, Russian Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers launched at 7:16 p.m. local time.
They will be docking with the International Space Station on Friday at 9:22 a.m., joining Commander Dan Burbank of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin.
The men currently aboard the ISS have been there since the middle of November.
"Upon arrival, Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers will become members of Expedition 30, restoring the station's crew complement to six," NASA said in a press release following the launch.
The space agency said the crew will continue scientific research and christen a new era of commercial resupply services from the U.S.
They will also be greeting the first SpaceX Dragon spaceship sometime in the middle of February.
The Russian cosmonauts are planning a spacewalk to continue external assembly and maintenance of the station.
Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin will be returning to Earth in March, while Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers will return back home in May.
Image Caption: Launch of the Soyuz TMA-03M on with ESA astronaut AndrÃ© Kuipers and crewmates Oleg Kononenko and Don Pettit. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2011
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