Sixty years ago Monday, a 27-year-old Russian test pilot named Yuri Gagarin strapped into a Vostok capsule in Central Asia and rode into orbit atop a launcher derived from a Soviet nuclear missile, becoming the first human to travel into the void of space. Twenty years later, in 1981, the era of reusable spacecraft dawned with the first launch of NASA’s space shuttle.
Veteran Russian commander Oleg Novitskiy, rookie flight engineer Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei launched into orbit Friday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:42 a.m. EDT (0742 GMT). The crew members rode a Soyuz capsule in pursuit of the International Space Station, where docking occurred at 7:05 a.m. EDT (1105 GMT).
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, veteran of a 168-day stay in space in 2017-18, will join two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Soyuz spacecraft April 9 for a flight back to the International Space Station in a deal brokered through Houston-based Axiom Space, NASA and the Russian space agency announced Tuesday.