American, Italian, Russian blast off for ISS

Federico Mansilla
Julio 22, 2019

Three astronauts arrived Saturday for their mission aboard the International Space Station after Russia's Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft carried them into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Soyuz MS-13, carrying Roscosmos astronaut Alexander Skvortsov (commander), Luca Parmitano (flight engineer-1) from Italy and Andrew Morgan (flight engineer-2) of the United States, will automatically approach the ISS and dock to it at 01:50 Moscow time Sunday (2250 GMT Saturday).

Parmitano and Skvortsov are scheduled to remain aboard the station with Koch until February 2020, leaving Morgan on station for an extended stay.

The arrival date is memorable as Saturday is the 50th anniversary that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the Moon in a giant leap for humanity.

Of the trio launching from the Kazakh steppe, only 53-year-old Skvortsov had been born at the time of the Moon landing.

A veteran of two ISS missions, Skvortsov will be the flight commander for the six-hour journey from Baikonur to the ISS.

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Skvortsov will fly to the ISS for the third time.

Morgan paid tribute to the Apollo 11 landing as a "victory for all of mankind" but ducked a question on whether Russian cosmonauts would ever reach the Moon - the Soviet Union only ever sent unmanned missions there.

Five decades after the 1969 moon landing, Russian Federation and the West are still competing in space, even if the emphasis is on cooperation at the ISS. Hague and Ovchinin are set to return to the Earth on October 3.

Some experts doubt if the deadline is realistic, given budgetary constraints and delays in developing the next-generation rockets and equipment needed for the journey.

The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.

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