Russia has successfully launched three crew members headed for the International Space Station, boosting morale after accidents raised doubts about the reliability of its space program.
And with that, Russia resumed sending crew members to the International Space Station, after a wait of several months. American astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are aboard the Soyuz-TMA capsule.
The Soyuz-F-G rocket blasted off without any problems from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, relieving many associated with Russia’s space program.
The program, one of Russia's proudest achievements, has been plagued by problems lately.
In August, a Soyuz rocket, meant to carry cargo to the International Space Station, failed to achieve orbit and plunged into Siberia, possibly releasing toxic material.
Last week, after a successful launch, a probe to explore deep space failed to leave Earth orbit. Officials fear the $170-million Phobos-Grunt probe could crash to Earth, also spilling toxic materials, if its computer cannot be reconfigured before its batteries die.
Despite these technical setbacks, U.S. astronaut Burbank remained positive before takeoff.
He says the program has a good crew, in the air and on the ground, and he thinks it is going to be a great mission.
That is what Russia’s space agency is hoping for, especially because Russia is the only nation ferrying people and cargo to the International Space Station, since NASA retired its aging fleet earlier this year.