Blastoff from Baikonur. Credit: NASA TV.
Three more crew for Expedition 35 took off from Baikonur yesterday at about 2:35 p.m. MDT. They will form the second half of the crew for the next 3 months, then become the prime crew for Expedition 36. This flight marks an important milestone in the history of rocket transfers to the ISS: it is the first "express" mission to fly people to the station. The traditional plan for Russian rockets is to take a two-day flight to rendezvous with ISS and then dock. This mission used advanced trajectory planning to arrive at the station and dock approximately six hours after blastoff.
Inside the cramped Soyuz capsule. Off to the left, out of frame, is a third cosmonaut.
The benefit for this flight profile, of course, is that the occupants of the Soyuz TMA-08M will not need to spend 40+ hours in the cramped Russian capsule. The downer for this flight though, is that the crew will not have had rest or sleep for more than 20 hours.
After the docking, the crew assembles for a press briefing.
The first half of the Expedition 35 crew has been in space now since just before Christmas. Hadfield, Marshburn, and Romanenko will leave it May. They are joined now by the second half of their crew: Cassidy, Vinagradov, and Misurkin. The new crew will remain on the station until September.
View of the Soyuz TMA_08M from the ISS as the two craft prepared for docking.