Crew Blasts Off, Arrives At Space Station
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[May 29, 2014]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - Leaving
politics behind, a veteran Russian cosmonaut and a pair of rookie
astronauts from the United States and Germany blasted off from the
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday for a six-month mission
aboard the International Space Station.
The crew’s Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off at 3:57 p.m. EDT and
headed into orbit, a live broadcast on NASA Television showed.
Perched on top of the rocket was a Russian Soyuz capsule holding
cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, a retired Russian Air Force colonel; NASA
astronaut and U.S. Navy pilot Reid Wiseman; and German astronaut and
geophysicist Alexander Gerst.
“Adrenaline is rising but feel relaxed,” Gerst, 38, posted on
Twitter as he and his crewmates rode a bus out to the launch pad.
Less than six hours after liftoff, Gerst and his crewmates reached
the station, a $100 billion research laboratory as it flew about 260
miles (418 km) above the Pacific Ocean west of Peru.
The Soyuz slipped into a berthing port on the station’s Rassvet
module at 9:44 p.m. EDT.
The station, a project of 15 nations, is overseen by the United
States and Russia.
Tensions between the countries have been strained following Russia’s
annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and economic sanctions
imposed by the United States as punishment. But until recently, the
space partnership was largely exempt from the political rancor and
the sanctions’ financial impacts.
That ended earlier this month when Russian officials said they would
not support a U.S. proposal to keep the station operating beyond
2020. Russia also imposed its own ban on selling Russian rocket
motors for U.S. military launches, a more immediate concern since
one of two primary rockets currently flying U.S. military missions
use Russian-made engines.
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At a prelaunch press conference on Tuesday, the new space station
crew was asked if the escalating tensions were having any impact on
In response, Suraev, Reid and Gerst slapped their arms around each
other and hugged.
Aboard the space station, currently staffed by NASA astronaut Steven
Swanson and two Russian cosmonauts, it’s business as usual, Swanson
said during an inflight interview broadcast on NASA Television on
“We don’t talk about it much, honestly,” Swanson said. “It does not
affect our working relationship. We get along very well. There are
no issues at all up here.”
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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