One NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off late this afternoon on a six-hour trip to the International Space Station.
With NASA no longer set up to send humans into space, the three -- NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins (@Astrollini), along with Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency -- rode a Soyuz rocket that lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:58 p.m. ET.
It’ll be a quick trip.
The spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with the space station at 10:47 p.m. At that point, it will dock with the orbiter, the hatches will be opened and the three officially will become members of the space station team.
The Soyuz had 102 tons of thrust as it lifted off, according to an announcer on NASA TV. And within a few minutes after liftoff, it was traveling at 3,937 miles per hour.
Eleven minutes after launch, the spacecraft was orbiting at an altitude of 143 miles above Earth. With its antennas and solar arrays deployed, the craft will slowly raise its altitude during its six-hour trip to rendezvous with the space station, which orbits at closer to 250 miles above Earth.
NASA astronaut Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) tweeted his well-wishes to the crew onboard the Soyuz earlier today, saying, “Good luck to @Astrollini and his crewmates for a successful launch to the International Space Station today!
Chris Hadfield, another NASA astronaut, also tweeted about today’s launch, writing, “Spaceship launches in 5 minutes with Oleg, Mike and Sergei aboard. I’m watching and remember, fingers crossed.”
NASA’s Hopkins also will be tweeting – and for the next six months he’ll be tweeting from space. Earlier this week, he tweeted, “Visit with my family before I leave for 6 months. They will be missed.”
And earlier today, he wrote, “The day is finally here. Next tweet from space. Thx for well wishes (sorry I couldn’t’ respond to them all) & thx for sharing in this adventure.”
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, who has been living onboard the space station, has been tweeting updates from space.
This morning, she tweeted, “Looking forward to the arrival of @Astrollini, Oleg & Sergey later today to complete our crew of 6. #Expedition37)
NASA noted that the three new crew members will live onboard the orbiting laboratory until March 2014. This is Kotov’s third mission to the station. Hopkins and Ryazanskiy are on their first missions.