Expedition 25 crew safely launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome

Soyuz launches smoothly. Image: NASA.gov.

A fresh trio of astronauts are presently winging their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after launching safely from the Baikonur cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan aboard a Russian-made Soyuz TMA-01M rocket.

Cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, and NASA flight engineer Scott Kelly departed from Baikonur at 5:10 a.m. local time (11.10 p.m. GMT) and are expected to join the orbiting science facility’s current crew of three on Saturday night.

The three new crewmembers will spend five months (159 days) aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 25.

Scott Kelley will assume command of the ISS in December when the additional team members of Expedition 26 arrive at the station to replace departing astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

NASA’s space shuttle Discovery is presently being prepped ahead of mission STS-133 to the ISS, which has a projected blast-off date of November 1. Once docked with the station, Discovery’s crew will offload and install its Permanent Multipurpose Module payload.

Interestingly, Scott Kelly’s brother Mark is scheduled to join the crew in February of 2011 on an upcoming Endeavour space shuttle mission to deliver and install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle physics device. It will be the first time siblings have been in space together.

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