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ISS Expedition 13 Blasts Off

The Russian Soyuz rocket has replaced NASA's space shuttle as the primary crew transport to the International Space Station. Image credit: Roscosmos
by Staff Writers
Baikonur, Kazakhstan (SPX) Mar 30, 2006
A Russian Soyuz TMA8 rocket lifted off at 8:30 a.m. local time, burning its four liquid-fueled boosters plus its core engine and carrying three crew members on the 13th mission to the International Space Station.

The rocket carried the three-member crew of Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and American flight engineer Jeff Williams - who have logged a combined 208 days in space - and Marcos Pontes from Brazil - the first space station crew member who has not been an American or a Russian.

The launch went entirely according to plan, with the rocket reaching orbital speed at 10 minutes and 20 seconds after launch, and lifting the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit of 118 miles by 143 miles (191 kilometers by 232 kilometers). The Soyuz will continue to adjust its orbit for the next two days, and is scheduled to rendezvous with the station at 10:19 p.m. Central Time on Friday.

The inclusion of Pontes also marks the beginning of a new leapfrogging strategy developed by the station partners to deliver crewmembers. Pontes will remain aboard the orbiting facility only until April 8, when he will return to Kazakhstan with the Expedition 12 crew of Bill McArthur, the commander, and Valery Tokarev, the flight engineer. Future missions will include crew members from Canada, Japan and ESA.

"We just could not be more pleased with the cooperation from our partners," said Rex Geveden, NASA's associate administrator, who was visiting Baikonur to witness the launch.

"We are more than just co-workers," said Vinogradov, "we are friends. We are ready. We are looking at completing some very serious tests."

Vinogradov and Williams are scheduled to remain aboard the station until September.

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ISS Crew Photographs Eclipse
Houston TX (SPX) Mar 29, 2006
The crew of the International Space Station captured images of Wednesday's total solar eclipse as they witnessed the spectacle from their unique vantage point 230 miles (370 kilometers) above Earth. NASA also transmitted video of the eclipse from the station on its NASA TV Video File.

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