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The three members of the space station's 24th crew are on their way there

The three: two Americans and a Russian who already commanded the station will stay there for about six months

The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft on the launch pad. Photo: Astronaut Doug Wilcock
The Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft on the launch pad. Photo: Astronaut Doug Wilcock

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying the three members of the 24th crew makes its way to the space station after it was launched on Wednesday at 01:35 at night Israel time.

When the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft lifted off, it was early morning in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Astronauts Doug Wilcock and Shannon Walker from NASA and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin began the two-day journey until docking with the International Space Station moving at an altitude of about 350 km above the Earth.

The three new flight engineers will begin a five-and-a-half-month stay in space after they dock on Thursday evening (18:25 p.m. EST, 01:25 a.m. Friday morning Israel time). They will be joined by 24th crew commander Alexander Skubertsov and flight engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson.

In September, Wilcock, Walker and Yurchikhin will become the 25th crew members when the three currently on the station will return to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft that brought them to the station on April 4.

For Wilcock, a 50-year-old US Army colonel, this is his second flight to Hal. He was an astronaut on mission STS-120 on the shuttle Discovery in 2007. He took off to the space station and performed three spacewalks.

Walker, 45, is a graduate of Rice University and the first Houston native to be announced as an astronaut. This is his first flight. Yurchikhin, 51, is making his third flight into space and the second long-range flight to the space station. He took off on Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-112 to the station in October 2002. He also spent six months aboard the station in 2007 as the 15th crew commander.

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