Russia sends multinational crew to ISS

December 21, 2011
The International Space Station (ISS) crew member Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers (centre) waves as he walks before boarding the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft in the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome. Russia sent a multinational crew of three astronauts to the International Space Station on a Soyuz rocket from its Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russia on Wednesday sent a multinational crew of three astronauts to the International Space Station on a Soyuz rocket from its Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, US NASA astronaut Don Pettit and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers blasted off aboard a Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft at 1316 GMT in a spectacular night-time launch from the Kazakh steppe.

The launch, which filled the otherwise pitch-black steppe with blazing light, appeared to go smoothly and mission control said that the Soyuz went into orbit as planned 10 minutes after lift-off.

Unusually, Kononenko did not bring any talisman to hang in the cockpit to indicate the arrival of weightlessness, telling reporters ahead of mission that there were other means of measuring gravity.

Their mission will bring the crew of the ISS back up to its full complement of six after the timetable for the launches was reshuffled following the loss of a Russian Progress supply ship bound for the station in August.

When they dock on Friday at 1520 GMT the trio will join Dan Burbank of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin -- who have been on the ISS since mid-November -- and prepare to spend Christmas together.

The crew on their way to the ISS is unusually experienced with all having previous experience of space flight.

Kononenko is a veteran of one ISS mission after a 199-day mission in 2008 while Kuipers also had a short stint on the orbiting laboratory in 2004. Petit had a 161-day mission in 2002-2003 and also flew on the shuttle in 2008.

Following the retirement of the US shuttle in July, Russia is currently the only nation capable of transporting humans to the space station.

But its image as a reliable partner was severely tarnished with the loss of the Progress supply ship, which crashed into Siberia shortly after launch and caused a complete rejig of the launch schedule.

This capped a disastrous year for the Russian space agency which also saw the loss of three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite and a telecommunications satellite due to faulty launches.

Russia has also acknowledged the almost certain loss of its Phobos-Grunt probe for Mars's largest moon, which was launched on November 9 but has failed to head out of Earth's orbit on its course to the Red Planet.

The probe is expected to fall back to Earth in January but Russian space officials have emphasised it should not pose a threat to anyone on the ground.

The recent problems were a major disappointment for Russia in the year marking half a century since Yuri Gagarin made man's first voyage into space from Baikonur.

The Soyuz rocket design first flew in the late 1960s and has a proud safety record, with Russia boasting that its simplicity has allowed it to outlive the shuttle.

Whereas NASA endured the fatal loss of the Challenger and Columbia shuttles in 1986 and 2003, Moscow has not suffered a fatality in space since the crew of Soyuz-11 died in 1971 in their capsule when returning to Earth.

Explore further: Russia resumes manned spaceflight after failures

Related Stories

Russia resumes manned spaceflight after failures

November 13, 2011

Russia on Monday launches three astronauts for the International Space Station on a key mission Moscow hopes will restore faith in its space programme after an unprecedented string of failures.

Russian spacecraft delivers new crew to ISS

November 16, 2011

A spacecraft carrying two Russians and an American docked Wednesday with the International Space Station in the first Russian manned mission for five months after a spate of technical failures.

Russia brings astronauts safely back to Earth

November 22, 2011

Three astronauts landed safely in the Kazakh steppe aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule on Tuesday after a stay of over five months aboard the International Space Station, Russian mission control said.

US-Russian crew blasts off for space station

November 14, 2011

A Russian spacecraft carrying an American and two Russians blasted off Monday from the snow-covered Kazakh steppes in a faultless launch that eased anxiety about the future of U.S. and Russian space programs.

Russian cargo ship launched to space station

October 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.

Russian rocket docks with space station

December 17, 2010

A Russian Soyuz space rocket carrying three astronauts on Friday docked with the International Space Station (ISS), Russia's mission control said.

Recommended for you

NASA engineers dream big with small spacecraft

April 20, 2018

Many of NASA's most iconic spacecraft towered over the engineers who built them: think Voyagers 1 and 2, Cassini or Galileo—all large machines that could measure up to a school bus.

Unveiling the secrets of the Milky Way galaxy

April 20, 2018

A multinational team of astronomers involving the University of Adelaide has catalogued over 70 sources of very high energy gamma rays, including 16 previously undiscovered ones, in a survey of the Milky Way using gamma ray ...

Where is the universe's missing matter?

April 19, 2018

Astronomers using ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory have probed the gas-filled haloes around galaxies in a quest to find 'missing' matter thought to reside there, but have come up empty-handed – so where is it?


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (5) Dec 21, 2011
Thanks for the story!

Although we are not privy to the conversations of world leaders, it is reassuring in these times of social and economic unrest . . .

To know that world leader must be openly communicating with each other in order for Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, US NASA astronaut Don Pettit, and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers to travel during this holiday season to the International Space Station on a spacecraft launched by a Soyuz rocket.

As I recall (vaguely) the Soyuz rocket was the one that initiated the space race in 1957, by launching the first Sputnik on October 4, 1957 while I was an undergraduate student.

Communications between world leaders probably played a major role in the unfolding of other major events since 1957:


not rated yet Dec 21, 2011
As I recall (vaguely) the Soyuz rocket was the one that initiated the space race in 1957, by launching the first Sputnik on October 4, 1957 while I was an undergraduate student.

Actually it was Vostok, then Voshod and presently Soyuz that's been in service since late 60-ties and gradually upgraded and modernized it is the safest and most reliable spacecraft ever developed by humanity. And they are currently working on a lunar version that should enter the service late 2012 with the cooperation of ESA.

2.3 / 5 (4) Dec 21, 2011
There is a related news item on Russian rockets of interest tonight:

I do not know what all this means.

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.