International Space Station Crew Blasts Off
July 15, 2012

International Space Station Crew Blasts Off

[ Watch the Video ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft carrying three new crew members to the International Space Station (ISS) departed from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan shortly before 11pm EDT Saturday night, NASA officials have announced.

According to the American space agency, the vehicle carrying NASA Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide launched en route to the ISS on Sunday, 8:40am local time (10:40pm Saturday night Eastern time).

They are scheduled to dock with the station's Rassvet module Tuesday, July 17 at 12:52am EDT, where they will join Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Sergei Revin of Russia for a period of approximately two months. Then on September 17, Acaba, Padalka and Revin -- each of whom have been on the ISS since May 17, are scheduled to return to Earth.

"Williams, who was born in Euclid, Ohio, and raised in Massachusetts, is on her second mission and will further extend the record for the longest sojourn in space for a female astronaut," the Associated Press (AP) reports. Williams, who is currently 46 years old, spent 195 days on the ISS in 2006 and 2007, the wire service reported.

The new crew members, who will remain onboard the orbiting laboratory until November, are expected to conduct more than 30 scientific missions before their departure, the Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday morning. Furthermore, there are plans for Malenchenko and Padalka to perform a spacewalk in order to install a platform that will be used in the future for the docking of a new laboratory capsule.

The July 15 launch takes place on the 37th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the first space mission in which crafts from two different nations (the US and the Soviet Union) docked together in space, the AP noted. In July 1975, astronauts from the two then-Cold War rivals -- two Soviets and three Americans -- completed five experiments over the course of nearly two days during the landmark mission.