Soyuz spacecraft blasts off, starts chasing down space station

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg will be tweeting from space as part of Expedition 36

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The Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts successfully blasted off from Kazakhstan this afternoon and is now chasing down the International Space Station.

The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft lifted off at 4:31 p.m. ET and is only the second accelerated trip to the space station. The first one, which took place in March, cut the time needed to travel to the space station from several days to just six hours.

This flight is set to do the same, reaching the space station at 10:16 p.m.

The launch happened under clear skies and a commentator on NASA TV reported that just a minute after liftoff, the capsule had reached a velocity of 1,100 miles per hour. Four minutes after launch, it was moving at 4,700 miles per hour. And six minutes later, the spacecraft was in orbit, deploying its antennas and solar arrays.

Mission Control Moscow reported that all conditions were normal.

During the launch, NASA TV showed live streaming video of the astronauts working and talking inside the capsule. One astronaut had hung a few small stuffed animals - talismans he was given by his children -- inside the capsule.

One NASA astronaut, Karen Nyberg, joined Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano on the Soyuz today.

The new crew members will join Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA and Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency.

NASA's Nyberg, who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering, is making her second mission into space.

Earlier today, Nyberg, who is a long distance runner, tweeted: "Time for to "unplug"! Thanks everyone for well wishes & great interest in what our nations do in space. Will be talking to you from LEO!"

This article, Soyuz spacecraft blasts off, starts chasing down space station, was originally published at

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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