Russian rocket ferrying three to International Space Station

Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, left, U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield joke with relatives before the launch Wednesday.

Associated Press

Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, left, U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield joke with relatives before the launch Wednesday.

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — A Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American, a Russian and a Canadian headed Wednesday for the International Space Station, where they will spend four months carrying out dozens of experiments.

The spacecraft launched from a Russian-leased manned-space facility in the frigid steppes of Kazakhstan.

American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield will travel for two days in the capsule before docking with the mammoth space station, which can sometimes be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, where three other people are already on board.

Romanenko was seen off by his father, Yuri, who set a record for time spent in space during a mission in the 1970s.

Wednesday marked a return to use of the launch pad known as Gagarin's Start, where Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off in 1961 for the first human orbital space flight. Another launch site was used for the previous mission, which set off in October.

The need for a back-up launch site became particularly acute with the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet. The Soyuz now is the only vehicle able to carry people to the space station.

Russian rocket ferrying three to International Space Station 12/19/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 9:29pm]

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