Humans safely launched to ISS

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Humanity’s most experienced spaceman was just launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a two day trip to the International Space Station.

Commander Sergey Volkov, 42, of the Russian Federal Space Agency, a former Russian Air Force pilot selected as a cosmonaut candidate in 1997, has already been to the ISS two times before and has logged 365 days in space (2008 and 2011). His father was also a cosmonaut and the launch today was 24 years after his father’s launch.

Interestingly, his father, Aleksandr Volkov, was 13 when he witnessed Yuri Gagarin become the first man in space. Inspired, he joined the Soviet space programme. Volkov (senior) was on board the Mir Space Station for the second time, 1991-1992, when the Soviet Union broke up. He left Earth a Soviet and returned to Earth as a Russian!

Today’s flight is using the Russian Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft. It travels to 28,8000 km/hr in less than an hour.

More than 600 viewers were watching the live stream video on the Internet, just after 2pm Broken Hill time on Wednesday 2 September 2015.

 Perhaps curiosity was prime since three ISS resupply missions (no people on board) have had fiery, catastrophic endings since October 2014. Two were from the US and one was from Russia. Human missions are still safe, and today saw another safe launch.

Apart from Volkov, also on board was the European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, the first Danish person to fly to space. He is on a 10 day mission to test technology, new ways of running space missions and swap a spacecraft (he will return in a different spacecraft, the older Soyuz TMA-16M, on 11 September 2015).

 The third crew member is Kazakh Space Agency astronaut, Aidyn Aimbetov.

Outback Astronomy watched the launch live from Broken Hill, at about 2:08pm. We like to delve into the background of the flights a little as we put context into these flights during our sky shows. Our customers are always keen to know when the ISS is overhead. It’s now back in our early evening sky for the next week or so!

Already on the ISS is NASA’s Scott Kelly, nearly at the midway point of his year-long mission, returning March 2016. This mission is testing human health in space over the longer term.

For example, research is necessary to understand fluid shifts in an astronaut’s head as this may lead to increased pressure on the brain, or changes in the shape of human eyes.

There will be nine crew members crowded into the ISS for the next eight days, before three of them return to Earth: Mogensen, Aimbetov and the current expedition commander Gennady Padalka (also of the Russian Federal Space Agency).

All this effort helps humanity stamp its presence in our Solar System and the greater cosmos.

Beneficiaries from this work will be the people (who are probably still at school) who will pilot spacecraft to Mars and beyond.

Image - Screenshot captured about two minutes into flight, from