A Soyuz MS-12 rocket has taken off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying a Russian cosmonaut, Alexey Ovchinin, and two US astronauts, Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague to the International Space Station (ISS).
It is the second manned space mission since the botched October 2018 launch when one of the first stage boosters on a rocket failed around two minutes after the start and the crew were forced to make an emergency landing.
Ovchinin and Hague were the ones who narrowly escaped death during the October incident. Their lives were protected by an automatic emergency rescue system called SAS. The system detached a capsule with the crew from the rocket and sent it back down to the ground on a severe ballistic trajectory. The escape capsule landed 400km from Baikonur, in the Kazakh steppe. Both men landed safely and suffered no physical injuries at that time.
In December 2018, another crew consisting of the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian David Saint-Jacques and NASA’s Anne McClain was successfully sent into orbit in the first manned space flight since the incident.
It will take the new mission just over six hours to dock to the ISS. The new crew is expected to stay in space for 204 days. The cosmonauts and astronauts are expected to conduct almost 50 scientific experiments in the fields of biology, chemistry and physics as well as medicine.
This mission will also see the first all-women spacewalk in history. Koch is expected to take part in the spacewalk together with McCain to change the ISS solar batteries on March 29.