Russian Federation launches first manned voyage to space station since rocket accident

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A Russian Soyuz rocket sent three spacefliers to the International Space Station today, marking a return to normal operations after a hardware problem spoiled a similar flight in October.

It was the first manned mission for Russia since October, when NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing shortly after launch following a rocket malfunction.

October's accident had highlighted the "smart design of the Soyuz and the incredible work that the search and rescue people here on the ground are ready to do every launch", he said.

Less than two minutes into that flight, one of the rocket's four external boosters failed to separate and accidentally struck the core stage of the rocket, sending it spinning out of control.

NASA's Anne McClain, Canada's David Saint-Jacques and Russia's Oleg Kononenko lifted off from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan into sunset skies as scheduled at 5:31 p.m. local time (3:31 a.m. PT).

McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko will spend more than six months doing research and experiments in biology, Earth science, physical sciences and technology.

The Soyuz was "successfully launched into orbit", Roscosmos wrote on Twitter.

Russian Federation launches first manned voyage to space station since rocket accident
Russian Federation launches first manned voyage to space station since rocket accident

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

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board".

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques blasted off from Kazakhstan this morning aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station.

The trio was due to arrive at the station about six hours after liftoff.

Saint-Jacques 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.

There, they'll meet the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst, NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev, the current crew of the ISS who'll use the Soyuz to return to Earth on December 20.

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.

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