American, Italian, Russian blast off for ISS

22 Juillet, 2019, 03:20 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • A Russian Orthodox priest blessed the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft ahead of Saturday's mission

Russia's Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday with three crew members on board, reaching the International Space Station on Sunday morning at 1:48 am Moscow time.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano from the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov are due to lift off in a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmosdrone in Kazakhstan.

The space launch was conducted on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing of the U.S. Apollo 11 spacecraft.

Parmitano and Skvortsov are scheduled to remain aboard the station with Koch until February 2020, leaving Morgan on station for an extended stay.

Commander Neil Armstrong descended a ladder onto the lunar surface and became the first man to complete what he famously described as "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

Of the trio launching from the Kazakh steppe, only 53-year-old Skvortsov had been born at the time of the Moon landing.

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Parmitano's only previous stint at the ISS lasted 166 days and saw him become the first Italian to carry out a spacewalk.

NASA was "even more capable" of accomplishing great things when it did so "as part of an worldwide cooperation", Morgan said.

But in recent times private companies like SpaceX and Boeing have bid to end the Russian monopoly on manned launches to the ISS, winning multi-billion contracts with NASA.

Skvortsov, Morgan and Parmitano all come from military backgrounds and posed together in uniform in the build up to the launch.

The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

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