KAZAHKSTAN (Reuters) – A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan on Sunday to deliver three new crew members to the International Space Station, in-cluding Italy’s first female astro-naut.
A Soyuz capsule carrying in-coming station commander Terry Virts from U.S. space agency NASA, Soyuz commander Anton Shkap-lerov from the Russian Federal Space Agency and first-time flier Samantha Cristoforetti of the Euro-pean Space Agency lifted off at 2101 GMT Sunday.
Less than six hours later, the capsule flew into a berthing port on the Russian side of the station as the two ships sailed about 260 miles (418 km) over the central Pacific Ocean, NASA mission commentator Kyle Herring from the Johnson Space Center in Houston said.
The station, owned and operated by 15 nations, serves as an orbiting laboratory for life science, materials research, technology development and other experiments using the unique microgravity environment and vantage point of space.
“I think that 100 years from now, 500 years from now, people will look back on this as the initial baby steps that we took going into the solar system,” Virts told a pre-launch press conference.