The first Russian rocket to fly with people since a terrible failure two months ago exploded Monday morning in a successful return on the fly.
The Soyuz rocket and the spacecraft were launched at 17:31. local time (6:31 am Eastern time) with three people on board – NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko – on their way to the station International Space from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan.
"A big launch," said a NASA commentator during a live stream of the event.
Six hours later, the spacecraft reached the station and anchored with it, culminating in a successful mission. The crew should remain in the station until June.
In October, a The Soyuz rocket malfunctioned when one of its side repeaters failed to separate properly and hit the missile. This triggered an automatic abortment of the spacecraft, bringing the crew of two members in a wild ride almost to the limit of space, before they fell safe and sound on the ground.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said the failure was caused by a "deformed sensor" damaged during rocket assembly. Instead of delaying the next manned flight on board, the agency actually moved it – a decision approved by NASA.
In a recent interview, NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, stated that Roscosmos was "very transparent" in the malfunction investigation.
"They have shared with us all the data we need to feel comfortable and sure we understand the problem and that it has been solved," he said.
NASA has been forced to rely on Russia for transportation to the space station since the shuttle retired in 2011. While there are several systems capable of transporting goods and supplies to the orbiting laboratory, Soyuz is l & # 39; only vehicle able to make people fly. After the bankruptcy, officials in the United States and Russia said they urgently needed to get it up and running again.
The malfunction did little to mitigate McClain's decision. "I would have taken the Soyuz the next day," he told reporters recently.
He said he was sure Roscosmos had solved the problem by asking "the three important questions: what happened, why did it happen, and how do we make sure it does not happen again?" Nobody would have given the green light until they answered those three questions. ".
McClain, a lieutenant colonel of the army and helicopter pilot, was chosen as an astronaut by NASA in 2013. It was the first time he was chosen for a space mission.
When he was 3 years old, he told his mother, "I want to become an astronaut," he recalled in a video of the army. "He never told me I could not."
On Monday, NASA also announced that the astronauts of the mission discontinued in October, NASA's Tyler N. "Nick" Hague and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, were supposed to fly again on February 28th.