"Apollo50th": ISS mission blasts off into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome

US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing

Russia’s Soyuz MS-13 rocket took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying the three crew members of the Expedition 60-61 to the International Space Station (ISS).

The new expedition consists of veteran Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov, experienced Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, and US astronaut Andrew Morgan, for whom it will be the first space flight.

Skvortsov will fly to the ISS for the third time. The cosmonaut, who was awarded the ‘Hero of Russia’ honorary title, has spent more than 345 days in orbit and performed two spacewalks which lasted around 12 hours in total.

His Italian colleague also has two spacewalks behind him, lasting about seven and a half hours in total.

The new crew will join two US astronauts, Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague, as well as Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, on board the ISS. The Soyuz rocket is expected to dock at the space station in about six hours.

The 60/61 expedition crew will spend 201 day in orbit and is scheduled to return to Earth in February 2020. During that time, they are expected to conduct dozens of experiments ranging from testing a natural disaster forecast and relief system, to studying the cosmic radiation levels on board the space station. They will also welcome the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates in early September.

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