Russia is scheduled to launch on Monday a Soyuz-FG rocket carrying three astronauts headed for the International Space Station (ISS), after a recent string of failures in the country's space program.
The astronauts -- Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, and American Dan Burbank -- will take off at 0414 GMT from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome, situated in Kazakhstan. This will be the first manned launch since the United States stopped taking humans to the ISS. It is hoped this mission may restore belief in Moscow's space program, which has been undermined by recent failures.
In August, Russia suffered what may well be its worst space accident in years, when an unmanned Progress supply vessel bound for the ISS crashed into Siberia shortly after take-off from Baikonur. The mishap caused Russia to delay launches to the ISS, and Soyuz rockets, the mainstay of the Russian space program for decades, were also temporarily grounded.
The astronauts launching soon will join the American Mike Fossum, Japanese Satoshi Furukawa, and Russian Sergei Volkov aboard the ISS, AFP reported.
The launch was supposed to take place on Sept. 22, but it had to be delayed for two months because of the accident with the Progress cargo vessel, which was to have been carried into space by a Soyuz-U rocket.
The great number of Russian space failures in the last years were caused by the human factor -- by errors in programming, calculations for the flight, and mistakes by the constructors, the RIA Novosti agency quoted an anonymous source as saying. The source reportedly has worked for the Russian space industry for many years.