Two astronauts and a cosmonaut launched aboard a Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft to the International Space Station at 3:14 p.m. ET Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Six hours later, they safely docked at the space station after completing four orbits of the Earth.
Expedition 59 has NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin joining NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos station commander Oleg Kononenko and the Canadian Space Agency’s David Saint-Jacques.
This will be only the fourth time that an Expedition crew includes two female astronauts.
On March 29, Koch – who will be on her first trip to space – and McClain will participate in the first all-female spacewalk.
McClain and Hague will also have a spacewalk March 22. Hague, Koch and McClain are part of NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of whom are women.
Together, the space station crew members will conduct experiments including biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science in the microgravity lab.
Hague and Ovchinin are getting a second chance after their original October 11 launch failed.
Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster, and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft, according to a NASA statement.
“We were violently shaken side to side, thrust back into our seats as the launch escape system ripped us away from the rocket,” Hague described. “As all of that’s happening, you’re being shaken around, vision is blurry. I hear the alarm sounding and see the red light where the engine has had an emergency. I had the vivid realization we aren’t making it to orbit today, we’ve been pulled off rocket and we have to land.”
They walked away from the harrowing landing on Earth with a few bumps and bruises, eager to return to space.
In November, Russian investigators said that the abnormal separation of the booster could be due to a sensor that was damaged during assembly.
“The launch ended … due to the abnormal separation of one of the side blocks (block D) that hit the central block (block A ) in the fuel tank, which led to its depressurization and, consequently, to the loss of stabilization of the space rocket,” said Oleg Skorobogatov, the head of the commission probing the failure.
The new launch comes on the heels of the launch and return of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that could be carrying astronauts as soon as this summer.
And the astronauts can join Little Earth, or Earthy, who is still floating around the station after launching on Crew Dragon.