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WATCH: Russian Soyuz rocket launches to the International Space Station

The Russian Soyuz rocket is currently the only vehicle able to transport astronauts to the ISS, since the U.S. scrubbed the shuttle program in 2011. The U.S. hopes to have private methods of transport made by companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences available by 2017.
By Aileen Graef Follow @AileenGraef Contact the Author   |   May 29, 2014 at 9:58 AM
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, May 29 (UPI) -- The Russian Soyuz rocket sent the members of Expedition 41 to the International Space Station in a perfect launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome Wednesday.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst of Germany, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Maxim Suraev were aboard the rocket that launched at 3:57 p.m. EDT. The rocket docked on the ISS at 9:48 p.m.

"All systems reported as nominal, going as expected," a NASA spokesman said during the live broadcast. Lift-off was a "flawless launch," he said, after the crew made it safely to orbit.

Approximately five minutes into flight, the crew could be seen on the onboard camera exchanging high-fives and giving a thumbs-up. A toy giraffe, given to Wiseman by his daughters, could be seen floating once they entered microgravity.

Gerst, Wiseman, and Suraev will be joining NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. They will join as members of the Expedition 40 crew and upon the departure of Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev, they will become Expedition 41. Suraev, who has been to the ISS once before in 2010, will serve as ISS commander. This will be the first time on the ISS for Gerst and Wiseman.

"First I've got to learn how to live and work in space, and after that, I have to be a really good worker bee for NASA for our European and international partners because that's my job from 9 to 5 is getting the work done, getting the science done," Wiseman told Space.com in a pre-launch interview. "Then free time that comes beyond that, I want to share this experience primarily using Twitter."

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