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Soyuz arrives at ISS on first manned mission since October failure

AFP  |  Baikonur (Kazakhstan) 

A carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts arrived at the on Monday, following the first manned launch since a failed launch in October.

Russian Oleg Kononenko, of NASA and of the blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome earlier in the day.

They successfully docked at the on schedule at 1736 GMT to begin an expected six and a half months aboard the ISS, the Russian Roscosmos space agency said via

It was the first manned voyage for the Soviet-era since October 11, when a rocket carrying Russia's and failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the pair to make a harrowing emergency landing.

They escaped unharmed but the failed launch -- the first such incident in Russia's post-Soviet history -- raised concerns about the state of the programme.

The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the since the retired the space shuttle in 2011.

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques smiled and gave thumbs up to the cheering crowd including relatives as they ascended into the Soyuz capsule on Monday morning.

Minutes after take off, Roscosmos said the capsule was in orbit. NASA meanwhile thanked the and Russian teams "for their dedication to making this launch a success".

In a successful rehearsal for Monday's flight, a Soyuz cargo vessel took off on November 16 from Baikonur and delivered several tonnes of food, fuel and supplies to the

said last month the October launch had failed because of a sensor damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome, but insisted the remained reliable.

While Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission to add to an impressive 533 days in space, both Saint-Jacques and McClain are making their maiden trip.

Kononenko, 54, said during a press conference on the eve of the launch that "risk is part of our profession".

But he added that his team "absolutely" trusted those who had prepared for the flight.

Alexander Gerst, NASA's and of Roscosmos were set to greet the trio on arrival at the ISS.

Veteran Kononenko said the would conduct a spacewalk on December 11 as part of an investigation into a mysterious hole that has caused an air leak on the ISS.

While on board, Saint-Jacques will be involved in an experiment called "At Home in Space" which "takes a closer look at how members adapt to living with each other by creating a shared culture," according to the

Among the dozens of other experiments the new crew members will take part in is one that will use worms to examine muscle loss in space, led by British scientists.

The experiment could pave the way to new treatments for muscular conditions for people on Earth, according to the

McClain, 39, served in and has represented the in women's rugby.

She has said training to spacewalk resembled the sport since it demands "grit, toughness, mental focus, and more".

Russia-cooperation in space has remained one of the few areas not affected by a crisis in ties between the former Cold War enemies.

But comments by the of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, have raised eyebrows.

He recently joked would send a mission to the Moon to "verify" whether or not NASA lunar landings ever took place.

In recent years Russia's debt-laden space industry has suffered a number of mishaps including the loss of cargo and satellites.

At a press conference following the successful docking, Rogozin announced March 1, 2019, as the date for the next manned launch to the ISS. He said Ovchinin and Hague would be on board, along with NASA's

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, December 04 2018. 01:05 IST
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