Russian launch crews stood up a Soyuz rocket Sunday on its launch mount in Kazakhstan for a scheduled liftoff Wednesday with approximately 5,500 pounds of supplies, experiments, fuel and several small satellites to be released by spacewalking cosmonauts at the International Space Station later this year.
Two crewmen returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Friday, riding a Russian Soyuz spaceship to a parachute-assisted, rocket-cushioned landing in Kazakhstan to close out more than 196 days in orbit. Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet undocked from the station at 1047 GMT (6:47 a.m. EDT) and landed in Kazakhstan at 1410 GMT (10:10 a.m. EDT).
Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, on his fifth trip into space, and rookie NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, a Colorado native, blasted off aboard a Soyuz booster at 0713 GMT (3:13 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, heading for the International Space Station for a four-and-a-half month expedition. The duo docked with the orbiting outpost at 1318 GMT (9:18 a.m. EDT).
Just 10 days after three space station fliers returned to Earth — and two days after launch of a station-bound supply ship — a veteran four-flight cosmonaut and an enthusiastic NASA rookie were cleared for launch Thursday to boost the lab’s crew up to five — one less than usual because of cost cutting by the Russian space agency.