An astronaut and a cosmonaut launched on the first two-person spaceflight in 14 years, bound for a 5-month stay on the International Space Station.
Astronaut Jack Fischer with NASA and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos lifted off on Russia’s Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft, atop a Soyuz-FG rocket, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:13 a.m. EDT (0713 GMT; 1:13 p.m. local time) Thursday (April 20).
Launched on a “fast-track,” six-orbit rendezvous, they are set to dock the Soyuz at the station’s Poisk module at 9:23 a.m. EDT (1323 GMT).
Once aboard the orbital laboratory, Fischer and Yurchikhin will become part of the Expedition 51 crew, joining NASA’s Peggy Whitson, cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who arrived at the space station in November.
[In Photos: Expedition 51 Mission to the Space Station]
Fischer and Yurchikhin were originally assigned in 2015 to fly with a third crew member, ESA’s Paolo Nespoli, but a decision by Roscosmos to reduce its contingent from three to two cosmonauts until its multipurpose lab module (MLM) Nauka is ready to launch in 2018 resulted in schedule and seat changes.
(Nespoli will rejoin Fischer and Yurchikhin in July, when he launches as part of the three-member Soyuz MS-05 crew to staff Expedition 52.)