The 12th crew of the international space station rocketed into space at 11:55 p.m. EDT, Friday to begin a six-month mission.
A Soyuz spacecraft carried Expedition 12 Commander William McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev into orbit. American businessman Gregory Olsen rode with them. Olsen is beginning a 10-day mission of scientific experiments as part of a commercial contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency.
The Soyuz launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. At launch, the space station was flying approximately 230 miles above the south Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Chile. With Tokarev at the controls, the Soyuz is on course to dock with the station at 1:32 a.m. EDT, Monday.
The hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the station will be opened at about 4:25 a.m. EDT, Monday. Live NASA TV coverage of the docking begins Monday at midnight.
During their stay, McArthur and Tokarev will mark five years of continuous human presence in orbit. They will pursue the station’s mission of learning how to live and work for long periods in space.
Expedition 11 Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer John Phillips have been doing research and maintaining station systems since April. Along with Olsen, they will return to Earth at 9:08 p.m. EDT, Oct. 10.
The Expedition 11 crew members spent the past week preparing for the arrival of the next station crew. On Tuesday, they each spent more than an hour familiarizing themselves with Olsen’s scientific experiments. On Thursday, they conducted pre-docking tests and prepared for their departure. This included packing and readying their launch and entry suits. Krikalev and Phillips also checked out the Soyuz spacecraft that brought them to the station April 16 to ensure it is ready for the return to Earth.
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