Soyuz space­craft reaches ISS

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

ASOY UZ space­craft carr ying Rus­sian, Amer­i­can and Cana­dian as­tro­nauts ar­rived at t he In­ter­na­tiona l Space Sta­tion on Mon­day in t he first manned mis­sion since a failed launch in Oc­to­ber.

Rus­sian cos­mo­naut Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain of Nasa and David Saint-Jac­ques of the Cana­dian Space Agency blasted off from Kazak hstan’s Baikonur Cos­mod­rome ear­lier in t he day.

They suc­cess­fully docked at the ISS on schedule at 17:36 GMT (00:36 on Tues­day in Cam­bo­dia) to be­gin an ex­pected six and a half months on the sta­tion, the Rus­sian Roscos­mos space agency said via Twit­ter,

It was the first manned voy­age for the Sov iet-era Soy uz since Oc­to­ber 11, when a rocket carr y ing Rus­sia’s Alek­sey Ov­chinin and US as­tro­naut Nick Hague failed just min­utes af­ter blast-of f, forc­ing t he pair to make a har­row­ing emergency land­ing.

They es­caped un­harmed but the failed launch – the first such in­ci­dent in Rus­sia’s post-Soviet his­tory – raised con­cerns about the state of the Soyuz pro­gramme.

The Soyuz is the only means of reach­ing the ISS since the US re­tired the space shut­tle in 2011.

Kononenko, McClain and Sain­tJac­ques smiled and gave thumbs up to the cheer­ing crowd in­clud­ing rel­a­tives as they as­cended into the Soyuz cap­sule on Mon­day morn­ing.

Min­utes af­ter take-off, Roscos­mos said the cap­sule was in orbit. Nasa ad­min­is­tra­tor Jim Bri­den­s­tine mean­while thanked the US and Rus­sian teams “for their ded­i­ca­tion to mak­ing this launch a suc­cess”.

In a suc­cess­ful re­hearsal for Mon­day’s flight, a Soyuz cargo ves­sel took off on Novem­ber 16 from Baikonur and de­liv­ered sev­eral tonnes of food, fuel and sup­plies to the ISS.

Risk ‘part of our pro­fes­sion’

Rus­sia said last month the Oc­to­ber launch had failed be­cause of a sen­sor dam­aged dur­ing as­sem­bly at the Baikonur cos­mod­rome, but in­sisted the space­craft re­mained re­li­able.

While flight com­man­der Kononenko is be­gin­ning his fourth mis­sion to add to an im­pres­sive 533 days in space, both Saint-Jac­ques and McClain are fly­ing for the first time.

Crew com­man­der Kononenko, 54, said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the eve of the launch that “risk is part of our pro­fes­sion”.

But he added that his team “ab­so­lutely” trusted those who had pre­pared for the flight.

Euro­pean Space Agency as­tro­naut Alexan­der Gerst, Nasa’s Ser­ena Aunon-Chan­cel­lor and Sergei Prokopyev of Roscos­mos were set to greet the trio on ar­rival at the ISS.

Vet­eran Kononenko said the crew would con­duct a space­walk on De­cem­ber 11 as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a mys­te­ri­ous hole that has caused an air leak on the ISS.

Saint-Jac­ques, 48, will be the first Cana­dian as­tro­naut to visit the space sta­tion since Chris Had­field, who recorded a ver­sion of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on board in 2013.

While on board, Saint-Jac­ques will be ta k ing part i n a Cana­dian ex­per­i­ment called “At Home in Space” which “ta kes a closer look at how crew mem­bers adapt to liv ing with each other by cre­at­ing a shared cul­ture,” ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Space Agency.

Among the dozens of other ex­per­i­ments the new crew mem­bers will be in­volved in is one led by Bri­tish sci­en­tists that will use worms to ex­am­ine mus­cle loss in space.

The ex­per­i­ment could pave the way to new treat­ments for mus­cu­lar con­di­tions for peo­ple on Earth, ac­cord­ing to the UK Space Agency.

‘Space­walk­ing like rugby’

McClain, 39, ser ved i n Iraq and has rep­re­sented the US in women’s rugby.

She has said that train­ing to space­walk re­sem­bled the sport since it de­mands “grit, tough­ness, men­tal focus and more”.

Rus­sia-US co­op­er­a­tion in space has re­mained one of the few ar­eas not af­fected by a cri­sis in ties be­tween the for­mer Cold War en­e­mies.

But com­ments by the com­bat­ive chief of the Rus­sian space agency, Dmitr y Ro­gozin, have raised eye­brows.

He re­cently joked Rus­sia would send a mis­sion to the Moon to “ver­ify” whether or not Nasa lu­nar land­ings ever took place.

In re­cent years Rus­sia’s debt-laden space in­dus­try has suf­fered a num­ber of mishaps in­clud­ing the loss of cargo space­craft and satel­lites.

A Soyuz MS-11 rocket car­ry­ing Rus­sian, Amer­i­can and Cana­dian as­tro­nauts takes off from the Baikonur Cos­mod­rome on Mon­day.

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