Astronaut Crew Scheduled to Handle SpaceX Spacecraft Operations Reaches ISS

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In addition to Kononenko, a veteran cosmonaut making his fourth trip to space, the Soyuz carried Anne McClain from the United States and David Saint-Jacques from Canada, both first-time space travelers.

The new crew is scheduled to be onboard during the first test flights of NASA's Commercial Crew Programme, which will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil.

This is the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic Soyuz failure on October 11.

An American, a Canadian and a Russian blasted into orbit Monday in the first launch of a piloted Russian Soyuz rocket since a dramatic failure in October when a booster failed to separate smoothly and the crew plummeted to earth in an emergency return.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blastoff and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board", said Kononenko, the 54-year-old crew commander, according to Radio Free Europe. A pair of minutes after takeoff one of the propellers of the 1st stage of the rocket took off and hit the 2nd stage, essentially composed of fuel. But this accident, the first in post-Soviet Russia, questioned the Soyuz space program.

NASA has confirmed that the three newest crewmembers for the ISS have arrived safely on the space station.

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This failure caused the automatic ejection of the part where the capsule was with the 2 men, who were able to return safely to the ground. The launch was successful, and the Soyuz spacecraft docked with the ISS at 17:23 GMT. They will also participate in a study on tiny worms to examine the loss of musculature that affects astronauts in space.

As NPR's Bill Chappell reported in October, "The agency does have contracts with commercial companies like Boeing and SpaceX that are developing new vehicles to take astronauts up, but the first flights of those aren't scheduled until next year".

Saint-Jacques, 48, described the Soyuz spacecraft as "incredibly safe". Had the rocket not reached orbit, the station might have been left unoccupied for a time.

Since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, Russian Soyuz rockets have been the only way to get people to the International Space Station. The report also revealed a corruption problem with an equivalent of billions of dollars "stolen" from the Russian space agency.

"We have liftoff", a NASA television commentator said as the rocket roared into the sky under 930 pounds of thrust and at a speed of 1,770 kilometres per hour.

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