Astronauts blast off for space station ahead of Space Race anniversary

A Russian/US space crew blasts off on mission to ISS (Picture: AP)

Three space travellers are en route to the International Space Station after a successful launch from Kazakhstan.

Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off in a Soyuz spacecraft at 12.42pm local time (8.42am BST).

The craft docked with the space station at around 12.05pm BST, as astronomer and satellite expert Jonathan McDowell confirmed on Twitter.

The launch of the US-Russia team comes three days before the 60th anniversary of the first ever human spaceflight.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed one orbit of the earth on 12th April 1961 at the height of the US-Russian space race.

On the same day, 20 years later, Nasa launched the world’s first reusable manned spacecraft, the Space Shuttle.

‘Together we can achieve even more’

Vande Hei told a pre-flight news conference Thursday: ‘When we started, we were competing with each other and that was one of the reasons we were so successful at the beginning of human space flight.

‘And as time went on, we realised that by working together we can achieve even more. And of course, that’s continuing to this day and I hope that it will continue into the future.’

This is the second space mission for Mr Vande Hei and the third for Mr Novitskiy, while Mr Dubrov is on his first mission.

The team will work on hundreds of experiments on the space station, researching biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

Already aboard the space station are Nasa’s Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, Russia’s Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Mr Hopkins, Mr Glover, Ms Walker and Mr Noguchi arrived on the space station in November on a spacecraft built by tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The journey was the company’s first fully fledged taxi flight for Nasa.

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