Wednesday, September 30, 2009
An international crew of three lifted-off this morning from the deserts of Kazakhstan bound for earth's orbital outpost as two of them begin a six month voyage in the ocean of space.
A Russian Soyuz FG rocket with the Soyuz TMA16 spacecraft a top launched on time this morning at 3:14:42 am EDT (11:14 am local time) under blue skies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
American astronaut Jeffrey N. Williams, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and space flight participant Canadian Guy Laliberté dressed into their launch suits three hours prior to lift-off and headed out to launch pad #1 -- Yuri's pad -- and climbed aboard. The countdown saw no technical issues as it moved toward zero.
About two minutes into the launch profile, the strap on boosters separated from the core rocket as it approached a speed of 4,950 feet per second. Three minutes later, the main stage separated from the Soyuz upper stage at an altitude of 105 miles high.
The nine minute ride to earth orbit was beautiful as the trio begins a two day journey to the international space station. Williams and Suraev will begin a six month stay aboard the space station as members of expedition 21 & 22 crews. Williams will later command expedition 22. Meanwhile, Laliberté will visit the station for 8 days and return back to the Asian desert on October 11 with the returning crew of Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and NASA astronaut Michael Barratt .
Today's morning launch of the Soyuz now places the space craft in a position to dock with the space station on Friday morning at 4:37 am EDT, as the orbital outpost flies over Asia.
While on board, the pair will work on 47 experiments along with four other crew members. As the space station soars into a new decade, it will be visited by two space shuttles, a new docking module, two progress supply ships and another crew rotation as a Soyuz TMA-17 is currently set to launch on December 21st.