Soyuz rocket blasts off with three bound for space station

Launch of a Russian Soyuz crew ferry craft bound for the International Space Station kicks off a busy six weeks of activity in orbit, with multiple dockings, undockings and a pair of challenging spacewalks on tap.

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian commander, a NASA flight engineer, and a Japanese astronaut -- all veteran space travelers -- blasted off and streaked into orbit late Saturday (U.S. time), the first leg of a two-day flight to the International Space Station.

Under a partly cloudy sky, the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:40 p.m. EDT Saturday (GMT-4; 8:40 a.m. Sunday local time) and quickly climbed away atop a rush of fiery exhaust.

The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft climbs away from its launching stand at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to kick off a two-day flight to the International Space Station. NASA TV

The launching came on the 37th anniversary of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project that opened the door to U.S.-Russian space cooperation.

"So how are you guys doing?" Vladimir Popovkin, director of the Russian federal space agency, asked the crew a few minutes before liftoff. "All comfy?"

"Yes sir, we're all situated and getting ready," Yuri Malenchenko, the Soyuz commander, replied.

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