Two Americans and one Russian have left Earth to start their five-month tenure aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The Soyuz capsule is also carrying a model of the first-ever artificial satellite, Sputnik.
NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Russia's cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin early on Wednesday. Their capsule successfully entered orbit and docked at the ISS after a six-hour flight, NASA and the Russian Roscosmos said.
Once the hatches are open, they will join the NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Russia's Sergey Ryazanskiy and ESA's Paolo Nespoli, who arrived at the station in July.
This is the third flight to space for the 50-year-old Acaba, who became the first person with Puerto Rican heritage to complete NASA's astronaut training in 2006. He had spent 138 days in space before starting the current mission.
Latin beats for Acaba
At the pre-launch press conference, Acaba said he would be taking some "musica Latina" into orbit.
"I can guarantee my crewmates they will not fall asleep during that music and if you want to dance at about 3 am tuned into our Soyuz capsule I think you'll enjoy it," he told journalists.
The other American astronaut, Vande Hei, had no space experience before the Wednesday flight. Hei, who is also 50-years old, served with the US army in Iraq before starting his career in NASA.
Russia's Alexander Misurkin, a 39-year-old air force major, spent time aboard the ISS in 2013.
Mini-Sputnik goes into orbit
The three-person crew also took a small model of the Soviet-made Sputnik on board, commemorating the upcoming 60th anniversary of the first successful artificial satellite launch on October 4, 1957. The model will serve as a zero gravity indicator.
The team has managed to complete the journey to ISS in six hours in the so-called fast track approach. The man-made station orbits at an altitude of some 408 kilometers (253 miles), orbiting the Earth at the speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour. It is mostly financed by Russia and the US.
dj/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, Interfax)