HOUSTON — NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on their mission to the International Space Station at 5:51 a.m. CDT Tuesday (4:51 p.m. Kazakhstan time). The trio lifted off from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This is the first time in 28 years the pad has been used for human spaceflight.
Ford, Tarelkin and Novitskiy will spend the next two days inside their Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft as they close in on the space station. Novitskiy is serving as the commander of the Soyuz and will be at the controls as the spacecraft docks with the Poisk module of the station Thursday. The three will join Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, who have been living aboard the orbiting laboratory since July.
NASA TV will provide live coverage of the Soyuz docking beginning at 7 a.m. CDT (8 a.m. EDT) Thursday. Coverage of the hatch opening and welcome ceremony aboard the space station will begin at 9:45 a.m. Hatch opening is scheduled for approximately 10:15 a.m.
Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin will remain aboard the station until March 2013. Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide will return to Earth Nov. 19. When Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide undock from the station, it will signal the end of Expedition 33 and the beginning of Expedition 34 with Ford as commander.
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For information on the International Space Station and the Expedition 33 crew, visit: