Astronauts Head to Int's Space Station

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Astronauts Head to Int's Space Station

They successfully docked at the ISS on schedule at 1736 GMT to begin an expected six and a half months aboard the ISS, the Russian Roscosmos space agency said via Twitter.

On Monday, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenkoof launched to the orbiting outpost aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

It was the first manned launch for the Soviet-era Soyuz since 11 October, when a rocket carrying Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and United States astronaut Nick Hague failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the pair to make a harrowing emergency landing.

The astronauts were the first sent to be sent to the space station since a crewed Soyuz launch was aborted in October after a booster rocket failed to separate properly, crippling the rocket.

Their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft launched from the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday at 5:31 p.m., then entered a designated orbit just under nine minutes later.

The evening before the launch, crew commander Oleg Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" had trust in the flight preparations. "We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur onboard". The spacecraft made four orbits over six hours as it chased down the space station for the docking.

Astronauts set to board the first manned space mission since an unprecedented accident aboard Russia's Soyuz, yesterday brushed aside safety concerns, saying they were ready to take risks.

"The teamwork that you demonstrate today is exactly what we should replicate on Earth more often", she said.

Saint-Jacques has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for December 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.

The launch was closely scrutinised because of the abortive mission to the ISS on October 11, which ended two minutes after take-off when a rocket failure forced its two-man crew to perform an emergency landing. The ISS went a crew of three.

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

But the space agency's chief executive, former deputy prime minister Dimitry Rogozin, has been bullish about the project, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

"Space represents a lot of opportunities for a lot of Canadians", he said at the agency office.

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