Russian-US crew welcomed aboard the space station

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Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service

In this image made from video footage released by Roscosmos Space Agency, the Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-17 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS), blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Spce Station, for the first time using a fast-track maneuver to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours. NASA's Kate Rubins and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled at 10:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m. EDT, 5:45 a.m. GMT) Wednesday from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station. (Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)

MOSCOW – A trio of space travelers blasted off to the International Space Station on Wednesday, using for the first time a fast-track maneuver that allowed them to reach the orbiting outpost in just a little over three hours.

NASA’s Kate Rubins along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

For the first time, they tried a two-orbit approach and docked with the space station in just a little over three hours after lift-off. Previously it took twice as long for crews to reach the station.

Aboard the station, they were welcomed by the station’s NASA commander, Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been aboard the complex since April and are scheduled to return to Earth in a week.

Speaking during Tuesday’s pre-launch news conference at Baikonur, Rubins emphasized that the crew spent weeks in quarantine at the Star City training facility outside Moscow and then on Baikonur to avoid any threat from the coronavirus.

“We spent two weeks at Star City and then 17 days at Baikonur in a very strict quarantine,” Rubins said. “During all communications with crew members, we were wearing masks. We made PCR tests twice and we also made three times antigen fast tests.”

She said she was looking forward to scientific experiments planned for the mission.

“We’re planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA,” Rubins said.