3 astronauts blast off to International Space Station

James Marshall
December 3, 2018

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is set to blast off in a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from Kazakhstan en route to the International Space Station (ISS).

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

Speaking before the trip on Sunday, crew commander Oleg Kononenko affirmed his crew "absolutely" trusted the flight's preparation.

A criminal investigation into the failure placed the blame on a sensor which had been damaged during assembly.

"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old said.

A rehearsal unmanned flight, which delivered cargo including food and fuel supplies, was successfully carried out in mid-November. They are scheduled to return to Earth on December 20.

It was the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic aborted Soyuz failure in October.

3 astronauts blast off to International Space Station
3 astronauts blast off to International Space Station

Nasa made reassurances about their continued co-operation with and trust in the Russian programme following the incident.

Meanwhile, Kononenko, Saint-Jacques and McClain will spend the next six and a half months in orbit.

The launch of the rocket will be observed by the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of NASA's manned flights department, William Gerstenmayer, and the governor-general of Canada, Julie Peyette (former astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency).

Space station veteran and mission commander Oleg Kononenko, 54, Quebec family doctor David Saint-Jacques, 48, and Anne McClain, 39, a United States army helicopter pilot who earned masters degrees from the University of Bath and Bristol in the United Kingdom, are scheduled to blast off at 2:30pm Moscow time from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Ahead of Monday's launch a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the spaceship on its launchpad, in accordance with tradition, while the crew spoke calmly of the dangers involved.

Its cause has not yet been established, but Russian officials have said they believe it was caused by a drill and may have been deliberate.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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