A Russian Soyuz rocket launched three new crewmembers on an express trip to the international space station May 28, kicking off a months-long stay in orbit.
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst of Germany and cosmonaut Maxim Suraev soared into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:57 p.m. EDT atop their Russian Soyuz spacecraft and docked four minutes early at 9:44 p.m EDT.
“All systems reported as nominal, going as expected,” a NASA spokesman said during the live broadcast. After the crew made it safely to orbit, he described the lift-off as a “flawless launch.”
Wiseman and Gerst are both heading to space for the first time, while veteran cosmonaut Suraev has been to the space station before during a mission in 2009 and 2010. The launch kicked off the crew’s five-and-a-half-month stay on the space station.
Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft have been flying crewmembers on same-day trips to the space station since 2013. The trips would take two days before express trips began. Unmanned cargo ships have been flying these quick trips since 2012.
The three new crewmembers will join NASA’s Steve Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev on the orbiting outpost as part of the Expedition 40 crew. Once Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev depart the station in September, Wiseman, Gerst and Suraev will be part of the Expedition 41 crew.