And Then There Were Six: Soyuz Launches Three Astronauts to ISS [PIC]

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Sept. 26 2013 3:33 PM

And Then There Were Six: Soyuz Launches Three Astronauts to ISS

russian soyuz capsule
On approach: A Russian Soyuz capsule with three astronauts onboard as it made its final maneuvers for berthing to the space station.

Photo by NASA

On September 25 at 20:58 UTC (02:28 local time), a Soyuz rocket thundered its way into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On board were three astronauts on their way to the International Space Station. Just six hours later they were on their final approach to the ISS, where astronauts on board took the picture above.

Soyuz rocket launch
Launch of the Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

Photo by NASA/Carla Cioffi

I love shots like that. Nothing drives home (so to speak) the idea that humans are in orbit like seeing a picture of people in a spaceship taken by other people in a much, much larger spaceship.

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The capsule contained two Russians— Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, and one American— NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins. With their arrival on the station, Expedition 37 now has a total of six members. These three will stay on board the ISS for about six months, due to leave in March 2014. The three people they joined— Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano —will return to Earth in November 2013.

Expedition 37 will perform a lot of tasks related to human biology and living in space. NASA has a good mission summary you can take a look at for more information.

And did you know the ISS is the third brightest object in the sky, after the Sun and Moon? If conditions are right, it can outshine Venus. To see if it's making a visible pass from your location, go to Heavens Above and enter your latitude and longitude. You can get tweets sent to you when it's visible by signing up with TWISST, and also see where ISS is right now by going to Real Time Satellite Tracking.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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