Rocket with three onboard heads for space station (Update)

Rocket with 3 onboard heads for space station
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-07M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American, a Russian and a Canadian headed Wednesday for the International Space Station, where they will spend four months carrying out dozens of experiments.

The spacecraft launched from a Russian-leased manned-space facility in the frigid steppes of Kazakhstan at 6:12 p.m. (1212 GMT). It took off atop a towering Russian rocket and went into orbit about 15 minutes later.

American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield will travel for two days in the capsule, before docking with the mammoth space station where three other people are already on board.

Russian Federal Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said the liftoff took place "without a hitch."

"We have finished off this year of launches on a good and handsome note. There is now only one operation left, and that is the docking, which we are positive we successfully take place Friday," he said.

The docking's timing—so close to Christmas—added to the high emotional valence of spaceflight for Hadfield. "There are certain times of the year and certain times in life that are special by everybody's traditions. In my family's tradition, this is maybe the most special time of the year," he said.

Rocket with 3 onboard heads for space station
Expedition 34 NASA Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), top, NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko of Russia wave farewell from the bottom of the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Marshburn, Romanenko and Hadfield will travel for two days in the capsule, before docking with the space station where three other astronauts are already on board. (AP Photo/NASA, Carla Cioffi)

The clear azure skies afforded a vivid view of the rocket as it took off, left a deep plume of white smoke and finally vanished into the distance as a vivid orange dot.

Among those watching was Hadfield's daughter, Kristian. "I'm feeling so happy. I mean, my dad just went to space. It's amazing. I'm feeling amazing," she said.

The International Space Station is the biggest orbiting outpost ever built and can sometimes be seen from the Earth with the naked eye. It consists of more than a dozen modules built by the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.

Marshburn, Romanenko and Hadfield will spend four months aboard the space station to conduct some 50 scientific experiments including a test for a system aimed at predicting natural calamities.

Rocket with 3 onboard heads for space station
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-07M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Ahead of the launch, the space travelers posed for photos, ran final suit checks and chatted with relatives through glass designed to protect them from infection.

Romanenko was seen off by his father Yuri, who set a record for time spent in space during a mission in the 1970s.

"My dad carried out a spaceflight in a two-person crew ... on a similarly cold day 35 years ago and that was one of the first long-term flights," Romanenko said at a news conference on the eve of the launch.

Rocket with 3 onboard heads for space station
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-07M space ship transporting U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield heads to the International Space Station after blasting off from the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Typically, the crew performs a final outdoor salute to top space officials before mounting the bus taking them to the Soyuz, but the practice was forgone this time because of the cold; the temperature at launch time was -17 C (2 F). But before the astronauts were packed into the cramped capsule, they exchanged greetings with Popovkin.

Although space travel has long fascinated the general public, interest has flagged in recent decades as tightened budgets have constrained ambitions. But Hadfield expressed optimism about the future of the industry and said that the voyages to the moon, which last happened 40 years ago, set an important precedent.

"What we are doing today as a group is continuing through that door and learning the things we need to do and taking one small step at a time so that we can better understand where we are in the universe," he said.

Wednesday marked a return to use of the launch pad known as Gagarin's Start, where Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off in 1961 for the first human orbital space flight. Another launch site was used for the previous mission, which set off in October.

Rocket with 3 onboard heads for space station
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-07M space ship transporting U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to the International Space Station blasts off from the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The need for a back-up launch site became particularly acute with the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet. The Soyuz now is the only vehicle able to carry people to the space station.

Although the Soyuz has proven dependable, recurrent problems with the unmanned version of the craft have sown anxiety over NASA's excessive reliance on the Russian space program.

NASA announced last week that it was making progress toward the first test of its new generation Orion spacecraft in 2014.

Orion is a part of NASA's growing ambitions to extend its reach into space. NASA says it is being designed travel more than 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers) above Earth's surface and return at a speeds almost 5,000 miles (8,050 kilometers) per hour faster than any current human spacecraft.


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Dec 19, 2012
Hadfield displayed optimism about the future of the industry and said that the voyages to the moon, which last happened 40 years ago, set an important precedent.


Not to be cynical, but a precedent for what? Giving up? It's astonishing to think that people were on the Moon in 1969, and yet we (the USA) can't even put people in low orbit anymore.

And there are so many knock-on effects it's hard to count. Science education peaked during the glory years of the space program, and has fallen off steadily ever since. After all, there's no glorious mission for people to look forward to anymore. Just endless, meaningless work. Maybe with a STEM degree you'll make a bit more money, but that doesn't give your life purpose, or meaning.

Oh well. As you can see I feel pretty strongly about this. Sorry for the rant.

Dec 19, 2012
Not to be cynical, but a precedent for what? Giving up? It's astonishing to think that people were on the Moon in 1969, and yet we (the USA) can't even put people in low orbit anymore.
Well, yes, you are just being cynical. A lot of money was spent to put people there, and it is hard to justify continuing to spend it, since we know all about the moon by now. Even if they were to send a team to the moon to investigate AS15-P-9625, what would they do, considering the constraints that that particular environment imposes? It seems like a waste of money to just go up there to just look at the damned thing, especially in light of the fact that you have to please everybody, and there are enough narrow-minded ultra right wing conservative nay-sayers who are prepared to defend their righteous points of view and deny that kind of evidence were it to be verily thrust under their noses, and they pay taxes too.

Dec 19, 2012
just curious, what's an "onboard head" ?

Dec 20, 2012
Baudrunner gets the prize for the dumbest post of the week. We certainly don't :know all about the moon by now". Talk about a waste of money, consider Halloween-$6 billion this year, $1.42 billion for hair coloring!! Your "narrow-minded ultra right wing conservative rant is nothing more than an ignorant insult to intelligence.

Dec 20, 2012
just curious, what's an "onboard head" ?


Rolling Stones bobble-heads. They carry them on all the missions, on the dashboard, because bobble-heads in micro-g are cool.

Even if they were to send a team to the moon to investigate AS15-P-9625, what would they do


I've got bad news for you. When the mothership leaves, WE are not taking you with us. After thousands of years of watching You, we have decided that the only thing worth taking back Home is the Angry Birds game. WE really like that game.

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