Expedition 26 crew blast off to space station

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

A photo of the Expedition 26 launch
Image: NASA/Carla Cioffi.

The Expedition 26 crew, comprising of Russian, American and Italian astronauts, launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday at 1:09 am local time (19:09 UTC).

The crew, which comprised of Russian Dmitry Kondratyev, American Catherine Coleman and Italian Paolo Nespoli, launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-20 and will dock with the station Friday afternoon. With a flash of light, the rocket lifted off the pad and soared towards the heavens resembling a star of white light according to launch footage.

Updates were given over the loudspeaker every 20 seconds until the nine minute mark which signaled that the capsule had reached stable orbit. This was greeted by hearty cheers.

The station currently houses Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka who have been aboard the station since October 9. They are slated to leave the station in March of next year. Once they depart, the recently launched Expedition 26 crew members will become Expedition 27.

The launch was scheduled to take place several days ago, however it had to be postponed to facilitate the replacement of the reentry capsule which was damaged while it was being unloaded at the Cosmodrome earlier this year. Replacing such a key component so close to the laucnch date caused some fear, however astronaut Dmitry Kondratyev dismissed these fears at the pre-launch press conference, "All the procedures needed to check the integrity of the ship have been completed, and all those have shown positive results."

The astronauts stayed at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur for two weeks before the launch. This launch marks ten years of flights to the ISS which began in October 2000.


Sources

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