Moscow, Apr 9 (efe-epa).- The Russian manned Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft took off Friday for the International Space Station on a mission dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the first flight of a man into space, carried out by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on Apr. 12, 1961.
The launch of the Soyuz MS-18, called “YAGagarin”, in which the Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitski and Piotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei travel, was carried out at 07.42 GMT from the Baikonur cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) with the help of a Soyuz-2.1A rocket, and broadcast live.
Docking with the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station is scheduled for 11:08 GMT, after circling the Earth only twice, which is known as the fast track.
At the time of the Soyuz MS-18 launch, the orbital platform was flying over northern Pakistan.
“The spacecraft has separated from the third stage of the carrier rocket,” they announced at the Baikonur cosmodrome minutes after takeoff, to indicate that the Soyuz had begun its autonomous flight to the station.
For Novitski, the commander of the ship, it is his third space mission, one more than Vande Hei, while for Dubrov it is his first flight.
The crew of the Soyuz MS-18 will be received on the station by members of Mission 64: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who arrived in October together with cosmonauts Sergei Rízhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov.
They will also be welcomed by the crew members of the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience,” the American astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as the astronaut of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Soichi Noguchi, who arrived at the station in November.
On Apr. 17, the number of station crew will be reduced from 10 to seven, when Rubins, Rízhikov and Kud-Sverchkov return to Earth aboard the Soyuz MS-17.
The International Space Station, a project worth more than $150,000 million, is made up of 15 permanent modules and orbits the Earth at a distance of 400 kilometers and a speed of more than 27,000 kph. EFE-EPA