A Russian spacecraft Soyuz roared to life and rocketed away from its launching pad in Kazakhstan early Friday, carrying two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut on a two-day flight to the International Space Station.
Soyuz TMA-18 commander Alexander Skvortsov, flight engineer Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a shuttle veteran with a doctorate in chemistry, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:04 a.m. EDT Friday, CNET reported.
At the scheduled time of 10.04am. (4.04am GMT) on Friday, powerful booster rockets propelled the Soyuz towards the heavens.
Spectators watched as the craft disappeared into a faint dot, and then broke into applause when officials announced the Soyuz had entered into orbit.
The craft, which thundered into orbit at more than 8,000mph, will dock on Easter Sunday with the space station, orbiting about 200 miles above the Earth, New Ross Standard reported.
NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko are due to take up long-term residence at the station as Expedition 23 flight engineers, bringing the station's crew complement to its maximum of six.
They will join current ISS commander Oleg Kotov of Russia, as well as Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and Timothy (T.J.) Creamer of NASA.
The newcomers will have a busy first few weeks, with the space shuttle Discovery slated to launch on its STS-131 mission on April 5, only three days after the Soyuz launch, and arrive at the space station April 7 with its own seven-member crew.
"I imagine first off it'll be get used to your new home, and then it will be let's get ready for the crew that's coming up and all of the details that we're going to need to provide and work with them to help make their mission a success," Dyson said in a preflight NASA interview, Space.com informed.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea