American, Russians dock at International Space Station

by Joseph K. Clark

A trio of Russian and American space travelers launched successfully and reached the International Space Station

MOSCOW — A trio of Russian and American space travelers launched successfully and reached the International Space Station on Friday.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42 p.m. (0742 GMT, 3:42 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

International Space Station

They docked at the station after a two-orbit journey that lasted just over three hours. It is the second space mission for Vande Hei and the third for Novitskiy, while Dubrov is on his first mission.

The launch came three days before the 60th anniversary of the first human flight to space by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the 40th anniversary of the first launch of NASA’s space shuttle.

“When we started, we were competing with each other, and that was one of the reasons we were so successful at the beginning of human space flight,” Vande Hei said at a pre-flight news conference Thursday. “And as time went on, we realized that by working together, we can achieve even more. And of course, that’s continuing to this day, and I hope that it will continue into the future.”

The three will work on hundreds of biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science experiments. They join NASA’s Kate Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker on the International Space Station, Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov arrived in a Soyuz ship in October; Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi — the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience crew — joined them in November.

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