Russian spacecraft makes lightning fast journey, headed for ISS

Heading for a five-month mission, the spacecraft reached its destination in just under six hours: 'everything is nominal on board [and] the crew is doing fine'

Alexander Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba training together (Photo: Channel News Asia)
Alexander Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba training together (Photo: Channel News Asia)

The spacecraft launched early on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, at 9:30pm BST and arrived at its destination in just five hours and 38 minutes later.

Russian Soyuz rocket gave a flawless launch sequence and crew members made their journey in a Soyuz MS-06 space capsule.

Heading for a five-month mission, as it launched, a translator for Russia’s Mission Control Centre in Moscow announced that “everything is nominal on board [and] the crew is doing fine”, during the live broadcast. The craft even arrived at the International Space Station a few minutes early.

NASA TV commentator Rob Navias said: “"A series of burns over the next several hours will gradually raise their orbit as they chase down the space station”, during the launch.

The rocket was carrying Alexander Misurkin of the Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, NASA’s first-time flyer Mark Vande Hei and veteran colleague Joe Acaba.


Abaca, 50, has spent nearly 138 days in space over the space of two missions. Rookie Vande Hei, 50, served with the US army prior to training as an astronaut. Miskurkin, 39, also has a military background.

Speaking at the pre-launch news conference, Abaca, of Puerto-Rican heritage, said he would be taking ‘musica Latina’ on-board. “I can guarantee my crewmates they will not fall asleep during that music and if you want to dance at about 3am tuned into our Soyuz capsule, I think you’ll enjoy it” he told journalists.

The launch marks the first time two US astronauts have blasted off together on a mission to the ISS from Russia’s Baikonur since June 2010. The American space agency halted its own manned launches to the ISS in 2011 but recently moved to increase its crew complement aboard the orbital lab as the Russians cut theirs for cost-saving reasons last year.

The astronauts will be meeting up with the other half of Expedition 53 at ISS, who arrived in July – European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Riazanski and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik.

NASA officials said in a statement that they are going to: “Perform hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.”

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