Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Station crew, Soyuz safely in orbit

American astronaut Mike Fossum and two crewmates have safely reached orbit after blasting off from central Asia at 4:12 p.m.

Seated in a Soyuz spacecraft next to Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, Fossum gave a thumbs up during the nine-minute climb to space.

"We congratulate you all on a successful launch," a Russian mission controller radioed.

"We feel great," Volkov reported.

A toy pig floated over Volkov's head, a gift from his son that became the crew's mascot.

The trio is on track for a 5:22 p.m. Thursday docking with the International Space Station where three crew members await their arrival: American Ron Garan and Russians Andrey Borisenko and Alexander

The six-person crew will welcome the Atlantis next month when it becomes the last shuttle to visit the station before the shuttle fleet is retired.

Once the shuttle program is over, the Soyuz will offer astronauts' only access to space for at least three or four years until U.S. commercial vehicles are ready to fly.

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