Expedition 16 is Off to the International Space Station

The next inhabitants of the International Space Station, Expedition 16, were blasted into orbit today aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. On board are Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, and US commander Peggy Whitson – the first woman to ever command the station.

The Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today at 1322 UTC (9:22 a.m. EDT). It should take another two days for them to match orbits with the International Space Station; the docking is planned for Friday at 1452 UTC (10:52 a.m. EDT).

Once they do arrive at the station, they’ll begin the process of taking over responsibilities from Expedition 15. During their 6-month mission on the station, they’ll be busy to say the least. Three space shuttles are due to dock and continue construction of the station, and Europe’s first automated cargo ship, Jules Verne, will also visit during their mission.

Two members of Expedition 15, commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov, will return to Earth with Malaysia’s Shukor on October 21st. NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson will remain onboard for the first stage of Expedition 16.

Original Source: NASA News Release