Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launches three astronauts to ISS

This is the first manned Soyuz launch since the failure of a manned rocket on October 11

Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launches three astronauts to ISS

Almost two months after a rocket malfunction forced NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos to abort the launch of a Soyuz mission, a new crew blasted off on Monday for the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled at 5:31 p.m. (1131 GMT; 6:31 a.m. EST) Monday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted his thanks to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Rogozin and to NASA and Roscosmos teams "for their dedication to making this launch a success".

The trio will be flying in the same kind of Soyuz launch craft and FG rocket booster that crashed at Baikonur in October, almost costing the lives of Russian commander Alexei Ovchinin and Nasa astronaut Nick Hague.

That triggered the Soyuz spacecraft's launch abort system, sending the spacecraft away from the damaged rocket.

After NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, Russian Soyuz rockets have been the only way to get people to the International Space Station.

Of the trio set to reach the ISS six hours after blastoff, both Saint-Jacques and McClain will fly for the first time.

Speaking before the trip on Sunday, crew commander Oleg Kononenko affirmed his crew "absolutely" trusted the flight's preparation.

"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old said.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board".

McClain, a 39-year-old former military pilot, said the crew looked forward to going up. "We feel very ready for it", she said.

Saint-Jacques has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for December 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.

In a successful rehearsal for Monday's flight, a Soyuz cargo vessel took off on November 16 from Baikonur and delivered several tonnes of food, fuel and supplies to the ISS.

New astronauts Anne McClain of the United States and David Saint-Jacques of Canada, together with veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Russian Federation, are due to arrive at the space station after a trip of six hours.

The crew will join American Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Germany's Alexander Gerst and Russia's Sergey Prokopyev, all of whom are already living on the orbital station.

Among the dozens of experiments the new crew members will be involved in is one led by British scientists that will use worms to examine muscle loss in space.

McClain served in Iraq and has represented the United States at women's rugby.

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