A Russian-made Soyuz rocket blasted a three-man crew into orbit on Monday, beginning the first manned voyage to the International Space Station since a mission in October was aborted in midair because of a rocket malfunction. The hatch to the Russian ship ferrying the crewmembers opened at 2:37 pm. The Soyuz rocket which took off from the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan has Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques on board.
Aboard the International Space Station, he will conduct a number of science experiments, with some focusing on the physical effects of the weak gravity astronauts experience in orbit as well as how to provide remote medical care.
Saint-Jacques, 48, described the Soyuz spacecraft as "incredibly safe".
But the rocket lifted off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on a tongue of flame and flew into space without a hitch, live video of the launch showed.
After Monday's successful launch, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted his thanks to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Rogozin and to NASA and Roscosmos space teams "for their dedication to making this launch a success".
The coupling took place at 17:36 GMT to start a 6-and-a-half-month mission in orbit around the Earth, the Russian space agency Roskosmos announced on Twitter.
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FLIGHT engineer David Saint-Jacques (top), flight engineer Anne McClain of NASA (centre) and Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko wave farewell prior to boarding Russia's Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft.
"The teamwork that you demonstrate today is exactly what we should replicate on Earth more often", she said. However, he did not get to the station because of the accident of the rocket. They managed to emerge safely despite a harrowing descent back to Earth.
The incident was the first manned launch failure for the Russian space programme since September 1983, when a Soyuz craft exploded on the launch pad.
This was the first manned voyage of the Soyuz since October 11, when a rocket carrying Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the two astronauts to make a harrowing emergency landing.
Saint-Jacques, 48, has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for December 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.