Russia launched a crew of astronauts toward the International Space Station on Monday — almost two months after their rocket dramatically broke apart mid-flight.
The three astronauts — NASA’s Anne McClain, Russia’s Oleg Kononenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques — reached orbit about 10 minutes after taking off from Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-11 rocket.
They’ll spend about six hours in orbit before docking at the ISS around 12:30 p.m., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.
This was the first time people rode on one of the Russian rockets since Oct. 11, when, 2½ minutes after takeoff, one of the Soyuz MS-10’s four boosters broke off, sending the aircraft spinning out of control.
The astronauts on board, NASA’s Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexey Ovchinin, had to make a dramatic escape 31 miles above the Earth in a capsule that was ejected from the rocket.
Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation, traced the failure to a damaged sensor and found that two other Soyuz rockets might have the same defect.
Monday’s successful launch appears to show they have solved the issue.
The trip to space — which had originally been scheduled for Dec. 20 — had to be moved up to ensure that the ISS wouldn’t be abandoned for the first time since crew arrived there on Nov. 2, 2000.
The trio on board appeared in front of reporters before the launch, waving and blowing kisses as they repeatedly denied being nervous about the flight.
Before takeoff, a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the flight at the launchpad, splashing holy water and holding up a cross.
The astronauts are slated to stay on the ISS until July 2019.
With Post wires
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