Three men are preparing to make an historic trip to the International Space Station this afternoon.
One NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts are set to blast off in a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:43 p.m. ET on 28 March 2013. If all goes as planned, the three men will become the first to make an expedited trip to the space station.
Historically, it has taken NASA's space shuttle fleet, as well as Russian Soyuz capsules, two days after launch to rendezvous with the space station. It will only take four Earth orbits for this capsule and crew to reach their destination.
Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin (left), Soyuz Commander Pavel Vinogradov (center) and Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA pose for pictures in front of the ISS Progress 51 cargo ship being prepared for launch to the International Space Station on Friday. (Photo: Victor Zelentsov/NASA)
The trip should take just six hours, meaning the Soyuz is scheduled to arrive at the station at 10:32 p.m.
The faster trip is using new rendezvous techniques that have been tested out with three recent unpiloted Russian cargo spacecrafts, according to NASA.
Hatches on both the Soyuz and the space station are set to open at 12:10 a.m. ET Friday.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, along with Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, are riding the Soyuz to the orbiter today. They will join Commander Chris Hadfield and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko, who already are living on the station.
Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut living on the space station, tweeted about the arrival of his new crew mates. "Good Morning, Earth! A long & big day ahead as 3 friends launch in their Soyuz rocket from Baikonur to dock with us ~03:00. Godspeed!" he wrote early today.
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