Russia's Soyuz spacecraft blasts off for half-year space mission
MOSCOW/BAIKONUR, June 16 (RIA Novosti) - The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft with three crewmembers on board has blasted of from the Baikonur Space Station in Kazakhstan for its half-year mission on the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch took place on schedule at 01:35am Moscow time (21:35 GMT).
The crew consists of Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchihin and the new ISS crew members, U.S. astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker.
On the eve of the launch, Yurchihin said he and his colleagues were "ready to work on the program and certain of our own strength."
The Soyuz spacecraft is expected to dock with the ISS on Friday at 02:25am Moscow time (22:25 GMT, Thursday). The three crewmembers will join Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Korniyenko, and U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who currently man the station.
The ISS orbit was raised by 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) on June 8 to ensure the best conditions for the docking of the spacecraft.
The TMA-19 mission will be the 106th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft since the start of the program in 1967.
The Soyuz spacecraft will most likely remain docked to the space station for the remainder of Expedition 24 to serve as an emergency escape vehicle.
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