The first Russian rocket to fly with people since a terrible failure, two months ago, took off Monday morning in a successful flight.
The rocket and the Soyuz spacecraft were launched at 17:31. local time (6:31 am Eastern time) with three people on board: NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, en route to International Space Station from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan.
"A good launch," commented a NASA commentator during the live broadcast of the event.
Six hours later, the spacecraft reached the station and docked at the station, leading to a successful mission. The crew should stay on the station until June.
In October, a The Soyuz rocket malfunctioned when one of its side thrusters failed to separate properly and struck the rocket. This triggered an automatic abandonment of the Space Shuttle, dragging the two-member crew into a frantic race almost at the edge of space before falling back to the ground safely.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has since said that this failure was due to a "deformed sensor" damaged during the assembly of the rocket. Instead of delaying the next flight with the crews on board, the agency actually moved it – a decision approved by NASA.
In a recent interview, NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said Roscosmos had been "very transparent" about the malfunction investigation.
"They shared with us all the data we need to be comfortable and confident to understand the problem and solve it," he said.
NASA is forced to appeal to Russia for its transport to the space station since the withdrawal of the shuttle in 2011. Although there are several systems capable of transporting goods and supplies to the laboratory in orbit, the Soyuz is the only vehicle capable of transporting people on the spot. After the failure, US and Russian officials said it was urgent to restore it.
The malfunction did not diminish McClain's resolution. "I would have had Soyuz the next day," she recently told reporters.
She said she was confident that Roscosmos solved the problem by asking "the three important questions: what happened? Why did this happen? And how to make sure that does not happen again? No one was going to give the green light until all three questions could be answered. "
McClain, lieutenant colonel of the army and helicopter pilot, was chosen astronaut by NASA in 2013. It was the first time that she was selected for a mission in l & # 39; space.
At the age of 3, she told her mother, "I want to be an astronaut," she recalled in a video of the army. "She never told me that I could not."
On Monday, NASA also announced that the unsuccessful mission astronauts in October, Tyler N. "Nick" Hague of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, were to fly again on 28 February.