Rocket With Three-Man Crew Takes off for Space Station

The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft carrying the crew of Timothy Peake of Britain, Yuri Malenchenko of Russia and Timothy Kopra of the U.S. blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, Dec 15 (Reuters) – A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a three-man international crew, including Britain’s first official astronaut, Tim Peake, blasted off on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-19M spaceship lifted off at 1703 p.m. local time (1103 GMT), beginning its six-hour journey to the International Space Station, and successfully reached its designated orbit about nine minutes later.

As well as Peake, the crew includes commander Yuri Malenchenko, a former Russian Air Force pilot and a veteran of long-duration space flights, and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

Peake, 43, a former army major who is on a six-month mission for the European Space Agency (ESA), became the first Briton to go into space since Helen Sharman traveled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991.

He is also the first astronaut officially representing the British government and wearing a Union Jack flag on his arm.

The same trio of Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake are set to return to Earth on June 5 next year.

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