Space station crew begins shakedown cruise

Image: Soyuz launch
Photographers line up to take pictures of Russia’s Soyuz rocket as it rises from its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA)

Three spacefliers from three countries – the United States, Russia and Japan – began a longer-than-usual flight to the International Space Station tonight in the first of a new breed of Russian Soyuz spaceships.

The Soyuz MS-01 mission lifted off at 6:36 p.m. PT from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan’s Takuya Onishi. NASA TV aired live launch coverage.

“We are feeling fine and everything is good onboard,” Ivanishin reported minutes after launch. The crew members exchanged fist bumps after reaching orbit.

This version of the Soyuz capsule is expected to be the last major upgrade of Russia’s space workhorse, a buglike craft that Russia plans to replace with its next-generation Federatsiya (Federation) spaceship sometime in the next decade.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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