The Soyuz TMA-19 vehicle blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today to bring three new crew members to the International Space Station. This was the 100th launch of missions in support of space station assembly, resupply and crew exchanges. The rocket lit up the early morning sky in Kazakhstan at 3:35 a.m. Wednesday local time, (5:35:19 p.m. EDT and 9:35 pm GMT on Tuesday). The Soyuz took eight and a half minutes to reach orbit, but it will take about 2 days to catch up to the ISS.
On board are Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker will join Expedition 24 commander Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who launched to the station on another Soyuz on April 2. This will be the first time a long-duration station crew has included two women.
Walker has a blog at the Houston Chronicle, that she hopefully will be able to update frequently from space. She is married to fellow astronaut Andy Thomas. Walker is serving as the flight engineer on the Soyuz flight, one of the few NASA astronauts who have trained to be a co-pilot for the Soyuz.
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Of interest today, space journalist Jim Oberg has a new article on MSNBC, “How Risky is it to Rely on Russian Spaceflight.”