Baikonur (Kazakhstan): A Soyuz space capsule blasted off on Thursday for the International Space Station, carrying an American astronaut making his first space flight and a veteran Russian cosmonaut.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa)’s Jack Fischer and Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin lifted off from the Russia-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan at 1:13 pm (0713GMT, 3:13 am EDT). They reached orbit about nine minutes later, a moment illustrated when a small white stuffed dog hanging from a string in the capsule began to float.
They will travel six hours before docking at the space station. Fischer and Yurchikhin will join Nasa’s Peggy Whitson, Russia’s Oleg Novitskiy and France’s Thomas Pesquet.
The two American astronauts are scheduled to speak with President Donald Trump on Monday. On that day, Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, will have spent 535 days in space, more time than any other American astronaut. Jeffrey Williams currently holds the record.
At 57, Whitson also is the oldest woman in space. She returns to Earth in September. Fischer and Yurchikhin, making his fifth space flight, will spend more than four months aboard the orbiting station before also returning to Earth in September.