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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NASA
About the author

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.

     

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