Russian-US space crew en route to International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-18 rocket is launched (Bill Ingalls/AP)
The Soyuz MS-18 rocket is launched (Bill Ingalls/AP) (AP)
9:10am, Fri 09 Apr 2021
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A Russia -US trio of space travellers launched successfully, heading for the International Space Station.

Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42pm local time aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

They are set to dock at the station after a two-orbit, three-hour journey.

It is the second space mission for Mr Vande Hei and the third for Mr Novitskiy, while Mr Dubrov is on his first mission.

During their mission, the crew will work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

The launch comes three days before the 60th anniversary of the first human flight to space by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the 40th anniversary of the first launch of Nasa’s space shuttle.

Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov, top, Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei, middle, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy wave farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft (Billl Ingalls/AP) (AP)

On the space outpost, the trio will join Nasa’s Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Ms Rubins, Mr Ryzhikov and Mr Kud-Sverchkov arrived in a Soyuz ship in October; Mr Hopkins, Mr Glover, Ms Walker and Mr Noguchi, the crew of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience, joined them in November.

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