A Russian rocket is on its way to the International Space Station with three international astronauts after blasting off from Kazakhstan. Russia hopes the mission will help restore confidence in its space program.
The Soyuz TMA-05M rocket blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on schedule at 0240 GMT on Sunday.
On board are NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
The trio, which is scheduled to spend four months on the International Space Station (ISS), is set to join their three colleagues already at the research complex on Tuesday after a two-day trip.
Moscow is hoping that a successful mission will help restore faith in its space program following a series of mishaps last year, including the failure of a mission to bring back samples from Phobos, one of Mars' moons.
Russia's Roscosmos space agency has also been disrupted by changes of leadership and disagreement between its various departments.
The United States now relies on Russia to fly astronauts to the ISS after it retired its space shuttles last year.
Sunday's launch coincided with the 37th anniversary of the landmark Apollo-Soyuz mission, which saw US and Soviet crafts dock in space - a major step in scientific cooperation between the two Cold War enemies.
tj/jlw (Reuters, AP, AFP)