Follow the latest on the launch of Expedition 8 to the international space station and the homecoming of Expedition 7. Reload this page for updates.

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0308 GMT (10:08 p.m. EST Mon.)

Expedition 7's Ed Lu reports it was a perfect ride all the way down aboard the Soyuz capsule tonight.

The three astronauts have been moved to a medical tent set up near the capsule in which the crew can change out of the launch and entry suits. Officials report they hope to be airborne with the crew in about an hour bound for Astana.

This will conclude our live landing coverage.

0302 GMT (10:02 p.m. EST Mon.)

Video of the just-returned crew from the landing site is now being displayed on the front screens in the Russian mission control room.

0258 GMT (9:58 p.m. EST Mon.)

Malenchenko, Lu and Duque have exited their Soyuz TMA-2 capsule on the freezing desert of Central Asia! They appear to be in good health following this safe, on-target landing.

0257 GMT (9:57 p.m. EST Mon.)

NASA flight controllers in Houston just told Expedition 8 commander Michael Foale aboard the International Space Station that the Soyuz crewmembers have been checked out by personnel.

0255 GMT (9:55 p.m. EST Mon.)

The hatch on the Soyuz spacecraft is open, according to NASA astronaut Bill McArthur. He is on one of the lead helicopters at the landing zone.

0250 GMT (9:50 p.m. EST Mon.)

Here is the post-landing plan, according to NASA:

A recovery team, including two U.S. flight surgeons and astronaut support personnel, will be in the landing area in a convoy of Russian military helicopters awaiting the Soyuz landing. Once the capsule touches down, the helicopters will land nearby to begin the removal of the crew.

Within minutes of landing, a portable medical tent will be set up near the capsule in which the crew can change out of its launch and entry suits. Russian technicians will open the module's hatch and begin to remove the crew, one-by-one. They will be seated in special reclining chairs near the capsule for initial medical tests and to provide an opportunity to begin readapting to Earth's gravity.

Within two hours after landing, the crew will be assisted to the helicopters for a flight back to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, where local officials will welcome them. The crew will then board a Russian military transport plane to be flown back to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where their families will meet them. In all, it will take at least eight hours between landing and return to Star City.

0248 GMT (9:48 p.m. EST Mon.)

Expedition 8 flight engineer Alexander Kaleri living aboard the International Space Station has just been informed by Russian mission controllers that the Soyuz has safely touched down at the targeted landing zone.

0242 GMT (9:42 p.m. EST Mon.)

Landing is confirmed! The recovery forces report they saw the retrorockets fire as the capsule touched down on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Expedition 7 commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA science officer Ed Lu are back on Earth after 185 days in orbit -- 183 of which were spent aboard the International Space Station. Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque has returned after spending 10 days aloft conducting science experiments. He launched with the replacement Expedition 8 crew and flew home with Expedition 7.

0240 GMT (9:40 p.m. EST Mon.)

Standing by for confirmation of landing. The crew reported in a minute ago they were at 1,000 feet.

0239 GMT (9:39 p.m. EST Mon.)

Just seconds before touchdown, the six solid propellant engines will be fired to ease the capsule on the ground at a velocity of about 1.5 meters per second.

Expedition 6 commander Ken Bowersox recalls what his landing was like earlier this year.

"The cosmonauts always laugh when you talk about a soft landing," Bowersox said today. "For us, they were actually soft-landing rockets. When we got down close to the ground, we felt the puff and then I didn't really feel an impact, I only felt the movement of my seat. I thought it was much like landing on an aircraft carrier in an airplane with hydraulic-cushioning landing gear. It was not that sudden of an impact for us."

0236 GMT (9:36 p.m. EST Mon.)

Less than five minutes from touchdown time.

0234 GMT (9:34 p.m. EST Mon.)

The helicopter in the landing zone reports it sees the Soyuz on the main parachute, continuing the descent to Earth.

0232 GMT (9:32 p.m. EST Mon.)

At an altitude of five kilometers, the module's heat shield is scheduled to be jettisoned. This is followed by the termination of the aerodynamic spin cycle and the dumping of any residual propellant from the Soyuz. Computers also will arm the module's seat shock absorbers in preparation for landing.

With the jettisoning of the capsule's heat shield, the Soyuz altimeter is exposed to the surface of the Earth. Using a reflector system, signals are bounced to the ground from the Soyuz and reflected back, providing the capsule's computers updated information on altitude and rate of descent.

0240 GMT (9:40 p.m. EST Mon.)

About 10 minutes to touchdown. The search aircraft have locked on to the Soyuz capsule's tracking beacon.

0228 GMT (9:28 p.m. EST Mon.)

After the drogue chute is jettisoned, the main parachute will be deployed.

Connected to the Descent Module by two harnesses, the main parachute covers an area of about 1,000 meters. Initially, the Descent Module will hang underneath the main parachute at a 30-degree angle with respect to the horizon for aerodynamic stability, but the bottommost harness will be severed a few minutes before landing, allowing the Descent Module to hang vertically through touchdown. The deployment of the main parachute slows down the Descent Module to a velocity of about seven meters per second.

0226 GMT (9:26 p.m. EST Mon.)

Chute deployment begins now.

At an altitude of about 10 kilometers, traveling at about 220 meters per second, the Soyuz' computers will begin a commanded sequence for the deployment of the capsule's parachutes. First, two "pilot" parachutes will be deployed, extracting a larger drogue parachute, which stretches out over an area of 24 square meters. Within 16 seconds, the Soyuz's descent will slow to about 80 meters per second.

0225 GMT (9:25 p.m. EST Mon.)

The Soyuz capsule is now being tracked by a fixed-wing aircraft.

0225 GMT (9:25 p.m. EST Mon.)

Communications have been re-established with the crew. They report the module separation was normal.

0224 GMT (9:24 p.m. EST Mon.)

The period of maximum G-loading on the Soyuz is expected to occur at this point in the descent.

0222 GMT (9:22 p.m. EST Mon.)

In a television interview earlier today, Expedition 6 commander Ken Bowersox talked about plunging into Earth's atmosphere inside the Soyuz capsule. He rode the Soyuz TMA-1 craft home in May along with crewmembers Nikolai Budarin and Don Pettit.

"There is a window near the left seat and the right seat and the Soyuz commander in the center has a periscope to look out of to check attitudes and to monitor. After separation from the instrument module and living module, that periscope goes away so the only people who can look outside are the left-seater and the right-seater (Duque and Lu tonight), and they get a very spectacular view. I know that Don (Pettit) and I, when we looked outside, we could see remnants of the spacecraft -- the living module and the instrument module -- burning up on reentry off to the side of us. We could also see the plasma glow."

0218 GMT (9:18 p.m. EST Mon.)

The entry guidance is scheduled to start at this time.

The crew is currently out of voice communications with Russian flight controllers, something that is expected at this portion of the entry.

0217 GMT (9:17 p.m. EST Mon.)

Entry Interface. The Soyuz is now hitting the upper fringes of the atmosphere at an altitude of 400,000 feet.

0214 GMT (9:14 p.m. EST Mon.)

Module separation has occurred. The three segments of the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft have jettisoned apart, allowing the Descent Module with the crew strapped inside to safely ferry the three men back to Earth. The no-longer-needed Orbital Module and Instrumentation/Propulsion Module are designed to burn up in the atmosphere.

A graphical preview of the Soyuz spacecraft's undocking and landing is available here.

Click here to see a map of the landing zone in Kazakhstan.

0211 GMT (9:11 p.m. EST Mon.)

The Soyuz continues its free-fall toward the atmosphere. Time to touchdown is 30 minutes.

0200 GMT (9:00 p.m. EST Mon.)

The next key event in the Soyuz entry will be separation of the spacecraft's three sections at 9:13:48 p.m. EST.

Just above the first traces of the Earth's atmosphere, computers will command the separation of the three modules of the Soyuz vehicle. With the crew strapped in to the Descent Module, the forward Orbital Module containing the docking mechanism and rendezvous antennas and the rear Instrumentation/Propulsion Module, which houses the engines and avionics, will pyrotechnically separate and burn up in the atmosphere.

The Descent Module's computers will orient the capsule with its ablative heat shield pointing forward to repel the buildup of heat as it plunges into the atmosphere. The crew will feel the first effects of gravity in six months at the point called Entry Interface, when the module is about 400,000 feet above the Earth, about three minutes after module separation.

0151 GMT (8:51 p.m. EST Mon.)

BURN COMPLETE! The Soyuz with Expedition 7 commander Yuri Malenchenko, NASA science officer Ed Lu and Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque aboard has performed its braking maneuver, committing the capsule for the return to Earth. Touchdown in Central Asia is expected at 0241 GMT (9:41 p.m. EST).

0149 GMT (8:49 p.m. EST Mon.)

The burn continues in progress. The spacecraft is currently flying over the South Atlantic, off the southeast coast of South America.

0147 GMT (8:47 p.m. EST Mon.)

BURN IGNITION! The Russian Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft has commenced the four-minute, 17-second engine firing to slip out of orbit for the trek back to Earth. The spacecraft's engines will slow the capsule's speed by 115.2 meters per second.

0141 GMT (8:41 p.m. EST Mon.)

Now six minutes from the deorbit burn and 60 minutes from landing.

0136 GMT (8:36 p.m. EST Mon.)

The Soyuz is nearing an orbital sunset as it cruises over the South Pacific, approaching the southern portion of South America.

0127 GMT (8:27 p.m. EST Mon.)

Now 20 minutes away from the deorbit burn. The Soyuz is currently located about 14 km from the space station.

0110 GMT (8:10 p.m. EST Mon.)

The target touchdown point in the center of Kazakhstan is located at 49.56 degrees North and 66.57 degrees East.

If the Soyuz were to make a ballistic entry as it did in May, the landing site would be 48.22 degrees North and 61.08 degrees East.

0105 GMT (8:05 p.m. EST Mon.)

The cloud ceiling over the planned landing site in Kazakhstan is 8,000 feet, with the chance of lowering to 3,000 feet.

The weather forecast for the area calls for the possibility of rain and snow showers after touchdown. The temperature is 25 degrees F.

0047 GMT (7:47 p.m. EST Mon.)

Clocks in Mission Control are counting down to ignition of the Soyuz deorbit burn one hour from now. The four-minute, 17-second firing of the spacecraft's engines will slow the capsule's speed by 115.2 meters per second, enough to brake from orbit for the plunge into the atmosphere. Landing in Central Asia is expected in just under two hours at 9:41 p.m. EST.

In a television interview earlier today, Expedition 6 commander Ken Bowersox described what it's like to return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule. He rode the Soyuz TMA-1 craft home in May.

"After the undocking there is a real quiet period as you drift away from the station. Then it gets busy again around the burn time, as you slow down to enter the atmosphere.

"And then there is 15 minutes before the G-load starts. That is a pensive time because you are watching very closely to see when the first indications of G-loads occur because that tells you how your burn went off, what attitude you were in and just how precise the burn was."

During the Expedition 6 homecoming earlier this year, a computer glitch caused the Soyuz to perform a ballistic reentry mode. The steeper descent increased the G-loads on the crew to eight times normal gravity on Earth, and landing occurred about 300 miles short of the planned touchdown point. That caused a long, tense search to find the capsule.

For tonight's landing, the Expedition 7 crew is equipped with a Global Positioning System device and a satellite telephone in case they land off course. Also, there are two recovery teams being deployed in Kazakhstan -- one to the primary landing site and one to where the Soyuz would come down on a ballistic reentry.

But Ed Lu says he isn't worried about the Soyuz suffering from another glitch that cancels out the normal descent.

"We are pretty confident. From the analysis and what we understand, it is quite unlikely it is going to happen again. But even though it is unlikely, the rescue forces are prepared in both locations. So even if it does happen, we believe it will be fairly quick before they pick us up."

2326 GMT (6:26 p.m. EST)

The Soyuz continues to move away from the station following the successful undocking. Russian flight controllers report the capsule is on a good trajectory away from the station.

Looking ahead to the next three-and-a-quarter hours for the Soyuz crew, the capsule will fire its braking rockets at 8:47 p.m. EST, slowing the craft to drop from orbit for return to Earth. The deorbit burn is scheduled to last four minutes, 17 seconds.

The three sections of the Soyuz capsule are slated to separate apart at 9:13:48 p.m. EST. Atmospheric reentry will follow at 9:16:54 p.m.

The Soyuz descent module will make a parachute touchdown in Kazakhstan at about 9:40:40 p.m.

2320 GMT (6:20 p.m. EST)

The Soyuz spacecraft has fired its thrusters for approximately 15 seconds, providing a small change in velocity to increase the rate of separation between the capsule and station.

2317 GMT (6:17 p.m. EST)

UNDOCKING! With a gentle push by springs, the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft has departed the Zarya module's Earth-facing docking port while flying over east-central Asia.

The Russian capsule is bringing the Expedition 7 crew -- commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA science officer Ed Lu -- and Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque back to Earth tonight. Expedition 7 spent 183 days living on the International Space Station, while Duque visited for nearly 8 days.

Landing is scheduled for 9:41 p.m. EST (0241 GMT) in central Kazakhstan.

2315 GMT (6:15 p.m. EST)

The hooks are driving open.

2314 GMT (6:14 p.m. EST)

The undocking command has been issued. The hooks and latches are opening to release the Soyuz capsule from the space station.

2311 GMT (6:11 p.m. EST)

The space station soon will be acquired by Russian ground stations in advance of the undocking. The lab complex is also approaching an orbital sunrise.

2304 GMT (6:04 p.m. EST)

In about 10 minutes, the order will be sent to begin opening the hooks and latches holding the Soyuz to the space station's Zarya module. A few minutes later, the capsule will be pushed away from the station by springs. A 15-second firing of the Soyuz's thrusters will follow to increase the rate of separation between the two spacecraft.

2259 GMT (5:59 p.m. EST)

"Everything is fine," Malenchenko just told Russian flight controllers. He is in command of the Soyuz spacecraft for today's undocking and landing.

2256 GMT (5:56 p.m. EST)

Expedition 7 commander Yuri Malenchenko has been given approval to start the Soyuz capsule's motion control system. Undocking is about 20 minutes away.

2252 GMT (5:52 p.m. EST)

The space station is currently flying over the southeastern coast of Africa. It is on a northeast track, heading for a pass over Russian ground stations for the undocking.

Inside the Soyuz TMA-2 spacecraft, departing crew is suited up and going through its procedures for the trip home tonight.

2245 GMT (5:45 p.m. EST)

With undocking about a half-hour away, the space station is being manuevered to the proper attitude for the event. Also, the station's solar arrays are being repositioned to protect them from Soyuz thruster plumes during departure.

2140 GMT (4:40 p.m. EST)

A graphical preview of the Soyuz spacecraft's entry and landing is available here.

Click here to see a map of the landing zone in Kazakhstan.

2014 GMT (3:14 p.m. EST)

The space station residents have formally handed command from outgoing Expedition 7 to the new Expedition 8 crew in preparation for the Soyuz undocking about three hours from now.

The Expedition 7's Yuri Malenchenko and Ed Lu and visiting European astronaut Pedro Duque, completed a farewell ceremony in the Zvezda service module with the newly-arrived Expedition 8 crew of Michael Foale and Alexander Kaleri.

Malenchenko, Lu and Duque then floated into the Soyuz, which is docked to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module, and closed the hatchway behind them at 2014 GMT (3:14 p.m. EST). Over the next two orbits of Earth, the three men will ready their capsule to detach from station for the journey back to Earth tonight.

Undocking of the Soyuz TMA-2 capsule is scheduled for 2317 GMT (6:17 p.m. EST). The craft will fire its engines for four minutes, 17 seconds to brake from orbit starting at 0147:00 GMT (8:47:00 p.m. EST).

Separation between the Soyuz spacecraft's orbital, descent and propulsion modules is expected at 0213:48 GMT (9:13:48 p.m. EST), followed by atmospheric entry at 0216:54 GMT (9:16:54 p.m. EST). The crew will be strapped into their seats within the descent module.

The capsule's parachutes will be commanded to start deploying in sequence at 0225:40 GMT (9:25:40 p.m. EST) to slow the rate of descent. Touchdown in Kazakhstan is targeted for 0240:40 GMT (9:40:40 p.m. EST) to end the 185-day Expedition 7 flight and Duque's 10-day mission to the station.

1935 GMT (2:35 p.m. EST)

Expedition 7 commander Yuri Malenchenko, NASA science officer Ed Lu and European researcher Pedro Duque are making final preparations to enter their Soyuz TMA-2 capsule for today's departure from the International Space Station and return to Earth.

They are currently going through checklists to verify all equipment and science experiments to be ferried back home are loaded into the Soyuz, Mission Control reports.

The hatch closure between the station and capsule is expected after 3 p.m. EST.


After six months of circling the Earth inside the International Space Station, Expedition 7 commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA science officer Ed Lu are preparing to return home tonight aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. Read our landing preview story.


This is the weekly Mission Control status report:

Final handover activities are underway aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 7 crew prepares to return to Earth Monday, following six months aboard the orbiting complex. Landing is scheduled for 9:41 p.m. EST on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Ready to take over is the Expedition 8 crew, which has spent the last week in space "cramming" for its role as prime station crew effective Monday afternoon when the hatches close between the station and returning Soyuz spacecraft, signaling the official change of command. A ceremonial "Change of Command" ceremony took place Friday afternoon.

Flight controllers in the U.S. and Russia have been closely monitoring the predicted effects of the recent solar activity and anticipate no change to any of the landing plans. NASA flight control personnel have determined that no additional radiation exposure to the ISS crew is expected as a result of the solar activity. Increased solar activity is forecast for the next few weeks, and the control team will continue to monitor the progress of events with support from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Since arriving early Monday morning at their home for the next six months, Expedition 8 Commander Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri have spent the week familiarizing themselves with real-time station operations from departing Expedition 7 Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu.

Among the handover activities conducted this week were robotic training for Foale on the station's remote manipulator system, called Canadarm2. He will serve as the incoming NASA ISS science officer also, and spent a great deal of his handover activities in the Destiny laboratory where most of the experiment work will take place during his six months aboard. Meanwhile, Kaleri and Malenchenko devoted their attention to operational handover in the Russian segment of the station, which will be overseen by Kaleri throughout the increment.

The weekend will be devoted almost exclusively to Soyuz stowage activities for the Expedition 7 crew's return to Earth along with European Space Agency astronaut Pedro Duque, who has spent the last eight days conducting a host of science experiments in support of a commercial contract with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency.

The station crews will wake up Monday about 2 a.m. EST and the hatch to the Expedition 7 crew's Soyuz is set to be closed around 3 p.m. Undocking is planned for 6:18 p.m. followed by the deorbit burn at 8:47 p.m. and landing at 9:41 p.m.


Two men who know what it's like to live in orbit for months at a time safely arrived at the International Space Station this morning for a half-year tour-of-duty. Riding inside a Russian Soyuz capsule, the Expedition 8 crew docked to the station at 0716 GMT (3:16 a.m. EDT). Read our docking story.

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1019 GMT (6:19 a.m. EDT)

With the hatchway between the Soyuz and station finally opened, the Expedition 8 crew of Michael Foale and Alexander Kaleri and European researcher Pedro Duque have floated into the orbiting complex to join Expedition 7's Yuri Malenchenko and Ed Lu.

VIP calls are upcoming from various U.S., Russian and European officials. Later, the crew will receive a station safety briefing from Malenchenko, enjoy a midday meal, deactive electrical systems on the Soyuz TMA-3 capsule except for keep-alive power to key systems and see Duque's science research commence on the station. A nine-hour sleep period for the crew members is scheduled to begin at 2000 GMT (4 p.m. EDT), NASA said.

0930 GMT (5:30 a.m. EDT)

The crew has pressurized the vestibule between the Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft and Pirs docking port. A series of leak checks will be completed in about 30 minutes, Mission Control says.

Hatch opening to permit Michael Foale, Alexander Kaleri and Pedro Duque to enter the station is about 45 minutes away. That event is required to occur while the station is flying above Russian ground station -- some two orbits after docking.

0729 GMT (3:29 a.m. EDT)

The hooks and latches have been engaged, completing the firm docking of Soyuz to its port on the station. A series of leak checks will follow this morning before hatch opening.

0716 GMT (3:16 a.m. EDT)

CONTACT AND CAPTURE! The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft has docked to the Russian Pirs module to deliver the two-man Expedition 8 resident crew to the International Space Station.

European Space Agency researcher Pedro Duque is also aboard the capsule for an eight-day visit to the station. He will ride home with the outgoing two-man Expedition 7 crew next week.

Hatch opening to unite the five space fliers inside the station is scheduled for 1014 GMT (6:14 a.m. EDT), some two orbits from now.

0714 GMT (3:14 a.m. EDT)

Ten meters till docking.

0713 GMT (3:13 a.m. EDT)

Thirty meters between the two spacecraft. Mission Control reports the Soyuz is "right on the money" as it makes the final approach. The KURS rendezvous system remains in control for this automated link up.

0711 GMT (3:11 a.m. EDT)

Soyuz is 50 meters from docking, closing at two-tenths of a meter per second

0710 GMT (3:10 a.m. EDT)

Now 80 meters from docking, closing at four-tenths of a meter per second

0709 GMT (3:09 a.m. EDT)

Soyuz has 107 meters to go.

0708 GMT (3:08 a.m. EDT)

The final approach is now underway.

0706 GMT (3:06 a.m. EDT)

Now 10 minutes from the scheduled docking time.

0704 GMT (3:04 a.m. EDT)

The Soyuz is now moving in range of Russian ground station coverage.

0703 GMT (3:03 a.m. EDT)

The Soyuz is holding a stationkeeping point for a few minutes before commencing the final approach to docking.

0655 GMT (2:55 a.m. EDT)

The capsule is currently performing the flyaround procedure to align itself with the docking port.

0650 GMT (2:50 a.m. EDT)

Soyuz is now 550 meters from the station, closing at three meters per second. Its closure rate will continue to decrease. At docking the Soyuz will be approaching at one-tenth of a meter per second.

0645 GMT (2:45 a.m. EDT)

The distance is now 1,600 meters. Docking is 31 minutes away.

0638 GMT (2:38 a.m. EDT)

Now 5,000 meters separating the two spacecraft. Mission Control says there are no problems being addressed as the docking time nears.

0630 GMT (2:30 a.m. EDT)

While flying over the South Pacific, nearing the southern tip of South America, the Soyuz capsule is 10,000 meters away from the International Space Station and closing at a rate of 8.5 meters per second.

The solar arrays on the U.S. and Russian segments of the station have been feathered to orientations such that they will not be impacted by thruster plumes from the approaching Soyuz during docking.

The link up remains set for 0716 GMT (3:16 a.m. EDT.

0610 GMT (2:10 a.m. EDT)

The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft is on course to make an automated docking to the Pirs module of the International Space Station just over an hour from now, delivering the next resident crew and a European researcher to the orbiting complex.


American, Russian and Spanish astronauts set sail to the International Space Station this morning, safely rocketing into Earth orbit atop a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Central Asia. Read our launch story.

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0559 GMT (1:59 a.m. EDT)

The Soyuz has moved out of range from Russian ground station coverage. The next communications session is expected about 90 minutes from now.

0556 GMT (1:56 a.m. EDT)

The crew has been given approval to raise their helmet visors. They are going through their checklists and settling into orbital life.

0553 GMT (1:53 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 15 minutes. NASA says the Soyuz has achieved an orbit of 143 by 118 miles. The craft will be performing a number of maneuvers over the next two days to reach the space station's orbit 250 miles up.

0550 GMT (1:50 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 12 minutes. "The crew is feeling well," Soyuz commander Alexander Kaleri just reported to Mission Control.

0547 GMT (1:47 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 30 seconds. CAPSULE SEPARATION! The Soyuz spacecraft has separated from the spent third stage, having arrived in Earth orbit for the journey to the International Space Station. Docking is planned for early Monday.

0547 GMT (1:47 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes. The third stage engine cutoff has occurred.

0546 GMT (1:46 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 8 minutes. About one minute left in the powered phase of the launch.

0545 GMT (1:45 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 7 minutes. A "nominal flight" is being reported as the Soyuz continues in its third stage of launch.

0544 GMT (1:44 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 6 minutes, 45 seconds. Third stage burn continues normally.

0543 GMT (1:43 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes, 30 seconds. The third stage is up and burning to deliver the Soyuz capsule into Earth orbit.

0543 GMT (1:43 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes, 10 second. The second stage of the Soyuz rocket has shut down and separated.

0542 GMT (1:42 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. Vehicle control system parameters are normal.

0541 GMT (1:41 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes. The second stage engines continue to burn.

0540 GMT (1:40 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 50 seconds. The safety escape tower and launch shroud have been jettisoned from the atop the Soyuz capsule.

0540 GMT (1:40 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes. The four strap-on boosters of the first stage have separated as planned. The second stage core stage continues to fire.

0539 GMT (1:39 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 90 seconds. The launch is progressing well, Russian space officials report.

0539 GMT (1:39 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 seconds. Soyuz engines continues to fire. Velocity 1,100 miles per hour.

0538 GMT (1:38 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 seconds. Pitch and roll programs have started to put the vehicle on the proper course for the two-day trek to the orbiting space station.

0538 GMT (1:38 a.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Russian Soyuz rocket launching the International Space Station's next resident crew.

0537 GMT (1:37 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 30 seconds. The first umbilical arm has separated from Soyuz. The second will retract in the next few seconds.

0537 GMT (1:37 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 1 minute and counting. Launch sequence start.

0536 GMT (1:36 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 2 minutes and counting. Rocket propellant tank pressurization is underway. The vehicle's onboard measurement system is activated. Oxidizer and fuel drain and safety valves of launch vehicle have been closed.

0535 GMT (1:35 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 3 minutes and counting. The nitrogen purge of the combustion chambers of side and central engine pods of the rocket has started.

0534 GMT (1:34 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 4 minutes and counting. The range at Baikonur is verified clear for launch. The launch key has been inserted in the bunker for liftoff.

0533 GMT (1:33 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes and counting. Systems of the Soyuz have switched to onboard control, the ground measurement system and Soyuz commander Alexander Kaleri's controls are being activated. Also, the crew has switched to suit air by closing their helmets.

0532 GMT (1:32 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 6 minutes and counting. The automatic program for final launch operations is being activated.

0528 GMT (1:28 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting. The crew inside the Soyuz capsule are activating recorders to collect data during launch.

0524 GMT (1:24 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 14 minutes and counting. The Soyuz telemetry systems are being activated. They will relay real-time data back to Earth during today's launch.

0521 GMT (1:21 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 17 minutes and counting. Realignment of the Soyuz rocket's trajectory control system has been completed and checks of internal batteries have been performed. The Soyuz telemetry system will soon be activated and monitoring of Soyuz's thermal control system also will begin.

0518 GMT (1:18 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 20 minutes and counting.

0514 GMT (1:14 a.m. EDT)

Launch of the Soyuz rocket remains scheduled for 0538 GMT.

Within nine minutes of liftoff, the three-stage rocket will deploy the Soyuz TMA-2 capsule into a 143 by 118 mile orbit inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator, NASA says.

Over the next two days, the craft will perform a series of maneuvers to reach the International Space Station for docking early Monday.

0508 GMT (1:08 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 30 minutes and counting. The emergency escape system is being armed. The system would be employed if a major malfunction occurs, propelling the Soyuz capsule off the top of the rocket and to safety.

0459 GMT (12:59 a.m. EDT)

The two-piece service structure that has enclosed the Soyuz rocket at the launch pad during its stay will be retracted now. The towers are rotating to a horizontal position. Several other umbilical arms connecting the rocket to the ground will be retracted at various times later in the countdown.

Meanwhile, leak checks of the crew's launch and entry spacesuits are scheduled to be underway at this time.

0453 GMT (12:53 a.m. EDT)

At the pre-launch news conference yesterday, Expedition 8 commander Michael Foale said he wanted to soak up this experience of flying aboard the Soyuz rocket.

"I will be thinking very specially and carefully about what we are doing," Foale said. "I am going to try and enjoy every moment. I am not going to hurry, I am going to think about who is seeing us, who is waving to us and who is sending us off. I will try to treasure it to remember it. I think this is a very special event and something that we should take seriously and thoughtfully. I will do the most I can to take that with me."

Right now, Foale and fellow crew members are strapped inside the Soyuz capsule awaiting the final 45 minutes until blastoff for their two-day flight to the International Space Station.

0433 GMT (12:33 a.m. EDT)

T-minus 65 minutes and counting. The launch countdown for Expedition 8 is progressing smoothly. The three-stage Russian Soyuz rocket is prepped for flight. In the next few minutes, the rocket's control system will be readied and activation of the gyroscope instruments will begin.

0405 GMT (12:05 a.m. EDT)

Michael Foale, Alexander Kaleri and Pedro Duque are aboard their Russian Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome as the countdown continues for this morning's launch to the International Space Station. Liftoff remains scheduled for 0538 GMT.


The Soyuz rocket carrying a three-man crew to the International Space Station remains on schedule for 0538 GMT (1:38 a.m. EDT) Saturday. Here is an overview the key events in the countdown, as provided by NASA:

  • T- 6:00:00 Batteries are installed in the booster

  • T- 5:30:00 State commission gives "go" to take launch vehicle

  • T- 5:15:00 Crew arrives at site 254

  • T- 5:00:00 Tanking begins

  • T- 4:20:00 Spacesuit donning

  • T- 4:00:00 Booster is loaded with liquid oxygen

  • T- 3:40:00 Crew meets delegations

  • T- 3:10:00 Reports to the State commission

  • T- 3:05:00 Transfer to the launch pad

  • T- 3:00:00 Vehicle first and second stage oxidizer fueling complete

  • T- 2:35:00 Crew arrives at launch vehicle

  • T- 2:30:00 Crew ingress through orbital module side hatch

  • T- 2:00:00 Crew in re-entry vehicle

  • T- 1:45:00 Re-entry vehicle hardware tested; suits are ventilated

  • T- 1:30:00 Launch command monitoring and supply unit prepared;
    -- Orbital compartment hatch tested for sealing

  • T- 1:00:00 Launch vehicle control system prepared for use; gyro instruments activated

  • T - :45:00 Launch pad service structure halves are lowered

  • T- :40:00 Re-entry vehicle hardware testing complete; leak checks performed on suits

  • T- :30:00 Emergency escape system armed; launch command supply unit activated

  • T- :25:00 Service towers withdrawn

  • T- :15:00 Suit leak tests complete; crew engages personal escape hardware auto mode

  • T- :10:00 Launch gyro instruments uncaged; crew activates on-board recorders

  • T- 7:00 All prelaunch operations are complete

  • T- 6:15 Key to launch command given at the launch site;
    -- Automatic program of final launch operations is activated

  • T- 6:00 All launch complex and vehicle systems ready for launch

  • T- 5:00 Onboard systems switched to onboard control;
    -- Ground measurement system activated by RUN 1 command;
    -- Commander's controls activated;
    -- Crew switches to suit air by closing helmets;
    -- Launch key inserted in launch bunker

  • T- 3:15 Combustion chambers of side and central engine pods purged with nitrogen

  • T- 2:30 Booster propellant tank pressurization starts;
    -- Onboard measurement system activated by RUN 2 command;
    -- Prelaunch pressurization of all tanks with nitrogen begins

  • T- 2:15 Oxidizer and fuel drain and safety valves of launch vehicle are closed;
    -- Ground filling of oxidizer and nitrogen to the launch vehicle is terminated

  • T- 1:00 Vehicle on internal power;
    -- Automatic sequencer on;
    -- First umbilical tower separates from booster

  • T- :40 Ground power supply umbilical to third stage is disconnected

  • T- :20 Launch command given at the launch position;
    -- Central and side pod engines are turned on

  • T- :15 Second umbilical tower separates from booster

  • T- :10 Engine turbopumps at flight speed

  • T- :05 First stage engines at maximum thrust

  • T- :00 Fueling tower separates;
    -- Lift off

Watch this page for live updates on the launch!


The Expedition 8 crew blasts off early Saturday aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket to keep the International Space Station staffed with full-time "caretakers" while construction of the orbiting lab remains suspended by NASA's grounded space shuttle fleet. Launch is scheduled for 0538 GMT (1:38 a.m. EDT). Read our launch preview story.

Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.