Trio takes shortcut to International Space Station

PTI Baikonur (Kazakhstan) | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 29, 2013

A Soyuz rocket with Expedition 36/37 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will remain aboard the station until mid-November, 2013. (Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)   -  NASA

An international trio blasted off today on top of a Russian Soyuz rocket for the International Space Station with a busy schedule full of space walks and a docking with a pioneering US cargo craft.

The six-month mission of Russian Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and his two flight engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Italian Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency will begin as soon as their Soyuz capsule docks to the orbiting lab later today.

The Soyuz is taking a shortcut that slashes the travel time from two days to just six hours thanks to a special orbit that blasts the astronauts directly to their destination.

The abridged journey has rarely been tried in the past because it puts a bigger stress on the astronauts’ bodies.

But one such trip was successfully completed earlier this year and Russia decided to repeat the experience with a view to making the six-hour journey the norm for future travel to the ISS.

The Soyuz rocket blasted off without a hitch into the night sky from Russia’s Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan yesterday at 2031 GMT and was due to dock to the ISS today at 0216 GMT.

“The Soyuz capsule and crew inside are now safely in orbit,” NASA commentator Rob Navias announced from the Johnson Space Center in the United States.

“The launch went exactly according to plan,” said Navias.

Italy’s Parmitano said he was especially excited because this was his first chance to experience space flight after years of gruelling training and practice.

“I feel the importance of performing well for all those people who have been working with me through all those years of training to get me to this point,” he told reporters shortly before liftoff.

“Because of the training, you feel confident that you know you can do the job you’ve been trained for.”

Past astronauts have made a habit of chronicling their experience with the help of social media websites such as Twitter winning tens of thousands of followers as a result.

Canada’s Chris Hadfield took that social media experiment to new heights this month by releasing a link to his celestial performance of David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity”.

The performance earned him nearly a million followers overnight.

Published on May 29, 2013
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