US-Russian crew blasts off for space station (Update)

Mar 28, 2013 by Dmitry Lovetsky
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-08M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, March 29, 2013. The Russian rocket carries Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

A Russian spacecraft carrying a three-man crew blasted off Friday from a launch pad in the steppes of Kazakhstan, for the first time taking a shorter path to the International Space Station.

Instead of the two-day approach maneuver used by Soyuz spacecraft in the past, this journey to the station would take NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin just under six hours.

The Soyuz TMA-08M lifted off on time from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome at 2:43 a.m. Friday (2043 GMT; 4:43 p.m. EDT Thursday). It's set to dock at the space outpost at 10:32 p.m. EDT Thursday (0232 GMT Friday).

The trio are "on a fast track to the International Space Station," NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said, adding minutes after the launch that all was going well and the spacecraft went into orbit without any problems.

Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, left, and Pavel Vinogradov, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS), walk to the rocket prior the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo/ Shamil Zhumatov, Pool)

The new maneuver has been tested successfully by three Russian Progress cargo ships, an unmanned version of the Soyuz used to ferry supplies to the space station.

Vinogradov joked at a pre-launch news conference at Baikonur that the journey to the station would be so quick that it could allow the crew to even carry ice cream as a present to the three men currently manning the orbiting outpost.

"It wouldn't melt in such a short time," he said.

U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy, crew member of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS), waves prior to the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo/ Shamil Zhumatov, Pool)

On a more serious note, Vinogradov added that the shorter flight path would reduce the crew's fatigue and allow astronauts to be in top shape for the docking. He said that it takes about five hours for the human body to start feeling the impact of zero gravity, so the quicker flight would allow the crew to more easily adapt to weightlessness in much roomier space station interiors.

The downside of the accelerated rendezvous is that the crew will have to stay in their spacesuits, which they don hours before the launch, through the entire approach maneuver.

Other Russian cosmonauts in the past have described the two-day approach maneuver in the cramped Soyuz as one of the most grueling parts of missions to the orbiting station. The spheroid orbiting capsule allows the crew to take off their bulky spacesuits, change into more comfortable clothes and use a toilet, but its interior is extremely confined.

The ship's spartan layout lacks adequate heating and fails to provide an opportunity for the crew to get hot food. It contrasts sharply with the spacious U.S. space shuttle, whose retirement has left Soyuz as the only means to deliver crews to the space outpost.

Russian Cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, bottom, and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS), wave prior to the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo/ Shamil Zhumatov, Pool)

Russian space officials said the longer approach was necessary at a time when the station was in a lower orbit required for the shuttle flights. After they ended, it was raised from 350 kilometers (217 miles) to 400 kilometers (249 miles), making a quicker rendezvous possible.

NASA is working on the development of its new generation Orion spacecraft. Orion's first trip is an unmanned mission in 2017, and the first manned mission is set for 2021.

Explore further: Scientists study surface composition of asteroid 2004 BL86 during close flyby of Earth

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russian cargo ship launched to space station

Oct 30, 2011

A Russian cargo ship was launched successfully to the International Space Station on Sunday, clearing the way for the next manned mission and easing concerns about the station's future after a previous failed launch.

Three-man Soyuz crew departs for space station

May 15, 2012

(AP) -- A three-man crew blasted off from a space center in southern Kazakhstan Tuesday morning on board a Russian-made Soyuz craft for a four-and-half-month stay at the International Space Station.

NASA says Russian space woes no worry

Feb 02, 2012

(AP) -- NASA says it is still confident with the quality of Russian manned rockets, despite an embarrassing series of glitches and failures in the Russian space program.

Recommended for you

NASA engineer advances new daytime star tracker

1 hour ago

Scientists who use high-altitude scientific balloons have high hopes for their instruments in the future. Although the floating behemoths that carry their instruments far into the stratosphere can stay aloft ...

Image: Sounding rockets launch into an aurora

2 hours ago

The interaction of solar winds and Earth's atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more ...

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

2 hours ago

Geologists from Brown University have found new evidence that glacier-like ice deposits advanced and retreated multiple times in the midlatitude regions of Mars in the relatively recent past.

Europe to resume satnav launches in March: Arianespace

2 hours ago

Europe in March will resume satellite launches for its troubled Galileo navigation system, hoping to boost by at least six the number of orbiters this year, Arianespace and the European Commission said Wednesday.

The two faces of Mars

5 hours ago

A moon-sized celestial object that crashed into the south pole: ETH researchers use a simulation to demonstrate why Mars consists of two notably different hemispheres.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.