The Soyuz rocket with three Expedition 33/34 crew members launched to the International Space Station on Tuesday, October 23, 2012, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Three new crew members — and a stuffed hippo — are on their way to the International Space Station. Expedition 33/34 NASA Flight Engineer Kevin Ford, Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft at 10:51 UTC (6:51 a.m. EDT, 5:51 p.m. Baikonur time) Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The trio is now safely in orbit, and on Thursday they will hook up with the ISS and join their Expedition 33 crewmates — Commander Suni Williams, ISS veteran Yuri Malenchenko, and Akihiko Hoshide — onboard the Space Station.
It was a beautiful daytime launch from the Site 31 launchpad, a different pad than usual. The pad that is normally used for human launches is undergoing renovations.
The stuffed hippo was given to the crew by Novitskiy’s daughter. Soyuz crews have had a history of having a mascot hanging in view of the cameras and when it starts floating is the visual confirmation of when the crew reaches orbit. The hippo isn’t the only animal on board. 32 medaka fish are stowed along for the ride, as they will be part of a new aquarium on the ISS called the Aquatic Habitat that will study how the fish adapt to microgravity.
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Watch the video of the launch, below:
Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin will be on the ISS for about five months, until March 2013. Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide, who have been on the station since July, will return to Earth Nov. 19.
The next launch to the ISS will be on Dec. 21 when cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn head to the Station on board the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft.