NASA astronaut Sunita Williams along with Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and Japan's Akihito Hoshide departed for the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sunday morning.
The trio is scheduled to reach the ISS Tuesday morning (Russian time) and will join NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin. They are likely to undertake over 30 missions during their stay aboard the International Space Station before they return to Earth in mid-November. They also plan an orbital sporting event to mark the Summer Olympics in London, according to the Associated Press.
It is the second space mission for Hoshide and 46-year-old Williams while Malenchenko is making his fifth voyage into space. Indian-American Williams spent record-setting 195 days aboard the International Space Station in 2006-2007. She will be the commander of Expedition 33 once the Soyuz TMA docks with the ISS.
The Soyuz craft lifted off at 08:40 am (local time). The Soyuz had a very smooth ride into space, a NASA spokesman told Reuters.
The launch coincided with the 37th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz mission when crafts from the U.S. and the erstwhile Soviet Union docked in space.
The U.S. is depending on Russia to send its astronauts to the ISS ever since the country's shuttle program came to an end in 2011. Russia charges NASA $60 million per astronaut.
Check out the photos of the Soyuz craft launch: