The Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft carrying the ISS crew of U.S. astronaut Ford and Russian cosmonauts Novitskiy and Tarelkin blasts off from its launch pad 31 at the Baikonur cosmodrome (Photo : Reuters)
"I think it's going to be something special, and I will get unforgettable memories," said cosmonaut Oleg Notivsky before launching off towards the International Space station in a Soyuz rocket with fellow Russian Eygeny Tarelkin, NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, and a toy hippo.
The trio was accompanied by 32 fish, brought along to research how they adapt to zero gravity environments, as liftoff initiated at 6:51 a.m. ET from Kazakhstan.
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MSNBC reports that the crew will arrive at the Space Station on Thursday at 8:35 a.m. ET to join Russian cosmonaut Yuri Melenchenko, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
The site notes that the fish will be studied in the Aquatic Habitat, a tank that was previously brought aboard the station.
Ford said, "I've got training on these fish...they're a bit larger than guppies. It's 32 fish, plus the three of us."
The crew is embarking on a five-month mission, and will take over for the Williams, Hoshide, and Melechenko when they return home on November 19.
On a light note, MSNBC writes that "Noyitsky picked up a small toy hippo, a gift from his teenage daughter Yana, to use as an indicator of when the Soyuz reached the weightless environment of space."
NASA associate administrator for space operations stated, "They'll be prepared. Their training has been excellent."
He adds, ""They have got time to learn on station, so if there are some little rough spots as they get started, they'll be able to accomplish their tasks,"
Check out SPACE.com for a direct feed of the Soyuz docking with the International space station at 8:00 a.m. EDT.