A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off today (July 14) carrying new residents for the International Space Station, a trio of veteran spaceflyers representing Russia, the United States and Japan.
The rocket launched the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:40 p.m. EDT (0240 July 15 GMT), though it was early Sunday local time at the Central Asian spaceport. Onboard were an American, a Russian and a Japanese astronaut due to take up residence for four months at the orbiting outpost.
The Soyuz soared smoothly into a blue sky dotted with clouds, punching a hole a one cloud layer as it launched into orbit, according to a NASA broadcast. It is due to dock at the station early Tuesday (July 17), where the three newcomers will join the existing crew of three on the space station's Expedition 32 mission.
The new complement includes NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide.
"Unfortunately our mission is only four months — I wish it would be years and years and years," Williams said in a preflight briefing. "I'm really lucky to be flying with Yuri and Aki. I think we're going to have a great time."
The Expedition 32 mission will be chock full of activities, between space station maintenance, visiting robotic cargo spacecraft, spacewalks (extravehicular activities, or EVAs), and a full load of science experiments.
"That's a whole lot of work the crew has to do to do the berthings, the dockings and the EVAs," said Mike Suffredini, International Space Station Program manager. "In addition we will allocate 35 hours per week to research."