3 astronauts take part in 1st manned voyage to ISS since rocket accident
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is making his way to the International Space Station (ISS) with two other astronauts after a Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan this morning.
The liftoff was as scheduled, at 6:31 a.m. ET. The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft entered a designated orbit just under nine minutes after the launch and is set to dock at the space outpost in about six hours after making four orbits of the Earth.
NASA said all onboard systems were operating normally and the crew was feeling fine.
The launch comes weeks after a rocket failure forced a Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to abort and make an emergency landing. Russia suspended all manned space launches pending an investigation before giving the green light to resume them on Nov. 1.
It’s the first time a Canadian has been in space since 2013, when Hadfield gained immense popularity around the world by providing glimpses — and the occasional musical performance— into daily life on board the orbiting laboratory.
Saint-Jacques — a doctor who also holds degrees in engineering and astrophysics as well as a commercial pilot’s licence — was initially scheduled to head to the ISS later this month, on Dec. 20. However, his launch was moved up after the Soyuz malfunction in October.
He’ll spend his time at the ISS conducting experiments, operating Canadarm2 (the Canadian-built robotic arm aboard the ISS) and testing new technologies, the Canadian Space Agency says. Some of the experiments will focus on the physical effects of the weak gravity astronauts experience in orbit, as well as how to provide remote medical care.
The crowd on hand to watch the launch included members of Saint-Jacques’ family as well as Governor General Julie Payette, herself a former astronaut.
This could be the last time a Canadian launches on board a Soyuz: NASA is preparing to return human launches to U.S. soil beginning in 2019, with two new crew capsules provided by SpaceX and Boeing.
Sources: • CBC
Featured Image: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via AP