Three astronauts reach ISS for five-month mission
The Soyuz rocket carrying Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, NASA first-time spaceman Mark Vande Hei and his veteran colleague Joe Acaba launched as scheduled from Baikonur, Kazakhstan
Two US astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut docked at the International Space Station for a five month mission on Wednesday following a night-time launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russia's Roscosmos space agency said the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft "successfully docked" at the ISS at 0255 GMT. The Soyuz rocket carrying Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, NASA first-time spaceman Mark Vande Hei and his veteran colleague Joe Acaba launched as scheduled from Baikonur at 3:17am (2117 GMT).
The trio will now join Paolo Nespoli of Italy, Sergey Riazanski of Russia and American Randy Bresnik aboard the orbital lab.
The launch marked the first time since June 2010 that two US astronauts have blasted off together on a mission to the ISS from Russia's Baikonur.
The American space agency stopped its own manned launches to the ISS in 2011 but recently moved to increase its crew complement aboard the ISS as the Russians announced last year that they would cut theirs in a cost-saving measure.
Mr Acaba, 50, has spent nearly 138 days in space over two missions, while Mr Vande Hei, 50, served with the US army in Iraq before training as an astronaut. Mr Misurkin, 39, who is beginning his second mission aboard the ISS, also has a military background.
Speaking at the pre-launch news conference on Monday, Mr Acaba, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, said he would be taking some "musica Latina" on board to lift his cremates' spirits.
"I can guarantee my cremates they will not fall asleep during that music and if you want to dance at about 3am tuned into our Soyuz capsule I think you'll enjoy it," he said.
— 'Praying for people' —
The launch has been overshadowed by the deadly storms that have battered the Caribbean and the southern half of the United States.
External cameras on the ISS captured footage last week of Hurricane Irma brewing over the Atlantic as it prepared to wreak deadly havoc.
NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston suffered "significant" damage during Hurricane Harvey, although Mission Control remained operational.
Mr Vande Hei struck a sombre note, tweeting,."L-2 days. Sunrise over Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Praying for the people of Florida as well as the continued recovery of the Texas Gulf Coast."
Space is one of the few areas of international co-operation between Russia and the US that has not been wrecked by tensions over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
The ISS orbits the Earth at a height of about 400 kilometres, circling the planet every 90 minutes at a speed of about 28,000 kilometres per hour.
Updated: September 13, 2017 01:09 PM