Monday, April 04, 2011

Soyuz Crew Safe In Orbit After Brilliant Launch

Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, venturing toward the International Space Station a week before the 50th anniversary of the launch of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly in space.

With Alexander Samokutyaev at the controls, a Soyuz spacecraft atop a Soyuz rocket blasted off at 6:18 p.m. EDT, zooming through a dark sky on its way toward a transfer orbit. The spacecraft and its crew -- which includes Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko and U.S. astronaut Ronald Garan -- reached orbit nine minutes after launch.

"This is a great anniversary flight," a flight controller in the Russian Mission Control Center in Moscow said.

The crew reported a normal flight and said they were in good shape.

The Soyuz spacecraft then automatically executed the deployment of its solar arrays and its primary communications antenna.

Garan and his Russian cosmonaut colleagues are scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station at 7:18 p.m. Wednesday.

Hatches between the Soyuz and the outpost are scheduled to open at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The new arrivals will join Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, U.S. astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman and Paulo Nespoli of the European Space Agency.

The six space travelers make up the crew of the 27th expedition to the station. The first expedition was staged in late 2000 and the outpost has been staffed around the clock ever since.

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