The Soyuz-FG rocket booster withSoyuzTMA-02M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off from the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, June 8, 2011. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Michael Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.
ARussianSoyuzspacecraft blasted off from Russia on the latest mission to the International Space Station.
From an ink-black launchpad at the Baikonour Cosmodrome inKazakhstan, a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft took off, traveling at speeds of up to 13,500 miles per hour. It carriedNASAastronaut Mike Fossum, RussiancosmonautSergei Volkov, and Satoshi Furukawa of theJapanAerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), rocket into orbit. They launched at 4:12 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT).
"Congratulations, guys, from the bottom of my heart," mission control radioed up to the crew.
Fossum, Volkov and Furukawa are set to begin their long-term stints aboard the space station -- continuing the uninterrupted presence of humans on the station since Nov. 2, 2000 -- where they will make up the remainder of the station's Expedition 28 crew. The spaceflyers will join NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko, who have been living and working atthespacestationsince early April.
The new crewmembers are scheduled to arrive at the space station on Thursday at 5:22 p.m. EDT (2122 GMT).
They flew aboard a Russian-builtSoyuz TMA-02M spacecraft, the second version of Russia's upgraded digital Soyuz capsule, which has also been modified to fix computer console display glitches that popped up during the design's first flight.
As part of their stay at theorbitinglaboratory, the crewmembers will conduct a variety of experiments in a number of fields, including physical sciences, human life sciences and Earth observation, according to NASA officials.
The astronauts will also witness something special: the final mission of the U.S. shuttle progam, with NASA retiring the 30-year program after Atlantis flies to ISS on July 8.
During Endeavour's STS-134 mission, the visiting shuttle astronauts performed four spacewalks and completed the last major stage of construction for the station's U.S. segment. This will allow NASA and its international partners to focus on the science and research capabilities that the station has to offer, NASA officials have said.
"Now we’re moving out of that phase as this construction assembly’s complete, and more into the science phase that it was really built to do, so it’s exciting as we’re bringing online all of these, the payloads, the different equipment to begin moving it forward with that research capability," Fossum said in a preflight interview.