Trio of astronauts blast off for International Space Station
A trio of astronauts from Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency have blasted off for a mission on the International Space Station.
A Russian spacecraft carrying Serena Aunon-Chancellor of Nasa, Sergey Prokopyev of Russian space agency Roscosmos and the ESA’s Alexander Gerst, from Germany, lifted off as scheduled from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket at 4.12pm local time (12.12pm BST).
The Soyuz MS-09 ship has successfully entered a designated orbit and is set to dock at the space outpost on Friday.
The three astronauts will join Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of Nasa and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, who are currently on the station. The mission includes 250 experiments in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology.
Roscosmos said its chief Dmitry Rogozin met at Baikonur with US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, who attended the launch.
The agency said in a statement that the continuing cooperation in space could help repair the strained relationship between the US and Russia.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have plummeted to post-Cold War lows over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.