Russia launches manned spacecraft to ISS

09:31, December 21, 2009      

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A Russian spaceship carrying three astronauts blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan early Monday, local media reported.


A Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-17 space ship, carrying a new crew to the international space station (ISS), lifts off from the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. The Soyuz TMA-17's three astronauts will take the orbiting laboratory's permanent crew to five following the early-hours launch, the first-ever blastoff of a Soyuz rocket on a winter night.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Russian television showed that a Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-17 spaceship lifted off at 00:52 Moscow time (2152 GMT Sunday) from the southern Kazakh steppe.

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) at 01:54 Moscow time (2254 GMT) on Dec. 23 after two days of flight.

The 22nd ISS mission, consisting of Russian Oleg Kotov, NASA's Timothy Creamer and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, will join Maxim Surayev and Jeffrey Williams already working at the space station.

During their 161 days in space, the crew members will complete several docking tasks, including those of two Russian freighters and three U.S. space shuttles, as well as conducting more than 40 scientific experiments and one spacewalk.


Russian cosmonaut and mission commander Oleg Kotov, bottom, U.S. astronaut Timothy J. Creame, center, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchir, top, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS), gesture prior the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket at the launch pad of the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, Dec. 21, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Meanwhile a Russian MIM-1 small research module called "Rassvet" (Dawn), which will be sent to the ISS by a U.S. space shuttle in May, 2010, is also set to be docked to the ISS during the mission.

The 7.9-ton "Rassvet" module will be used to conduct a series of scientific experiments, especially those of biotechnology and material science. It can also be used to deposit experiment equipment.

It was the first-ever launch of a Soyuz spaceship on a winter night, bringing festive mood of Christmas cheer to the ISS that orbits 350 km above Earth.

Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, told reporters earlier that due to increased times of manned launches and consideration on fuel efficiency, the launch was scheduled for a late winter night.

Usually Russia sends manned spacecraft to the ISS in other three seasons of the year, he said.

The emblem of the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft, which depicted an ISS astronaut on a spacewalk and a girl on green grass looking at the moon, were merged from two drawings by 12-year-old Dong Yue from China and 10-year-old Oleg Golovin from Russia respectively, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

These two children will be invited to the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow on Dec. 28, congratulating the space crew on the New Year occasion.

Kotov as commander of the 22nd expedition mission, said New Year gifts and a Christmas tree will be brought to the space station.


The Russian Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft, with the International Space Station (ISS) crew of U.S. astronaut Timothy J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, sits on the launchpad at the Baikonur cosmodrome December 21, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

"We are the messengers of Father Frost and Santa. We will deliver a Santa gift bag and a Christmas tree," he said.

Noguchi, Japan's first astronaut to travel to space onboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship, said he would make fresh sushi at the ISS. This would thus add Japanese flavor to the food that crew members currently have.

Creamer, on his maiden space voyage, has planned to keep on "twittering" about this journey from the cosmos.

The NASA website also set up virtual postcards for people on Earth to send their Christmas greetings to the "humanity's outpost in space."

Source: Xinhua
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