Astronauts launching to International Space Station

Astronauts launching to International Space Station

A trio of astronauts blasted off Wednesday morning on a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

A camera mounted outside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft provided live views of the rocket's ascent into orbit, and it showed the Soyuz launcher's third stage jettisoning from the capsule, venting gas to steer clear of the crew's spaceship.

The Soyuz spacecraft's passengers include: Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Sergey Prokopyev, a cosmonaut with the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

The livestream above, courtesy of NASA TV's public streaming service, began coverage at 11.15pm BST straight from the Kazakhstani Cosmodrome. The three astronauts will be greeted by their fellow Expedition 56 crewmates: NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev.

The International Space Station's international nature does of course complicate the idea of the USA turning it over to a commercial consortium, and Bridenstine told the Post that he was aware companies may find it "hard to close the business case". The three arriving astronauts will remain aboard until December. Epps remains in consideration for future missions, NASA said.

This launch comes on the heels of the safe return to Earth of Expedition 55, which was made up of NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, Japan's Norishige Kanai and mission commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Space Agency. The crew of six will spend the coming months working on about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, according to NASA.

The ISS crew spent a staggering 168 days in orbit, circling the Earth 2,688 times and covering a distance of 71.2 million miles.

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