A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying US astronaut Jack Fischer, 43, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, 58, lifted off at 1:13 p.m. local time/3:13 a.m. EDT (0713 GMT) with a rare empty third seat. Meanwhile, new science gear and crew supplies are on orbit right now and headed for the International Space Station this weekend.
Two days after Yurchikhin and Fischer dock and join their Expedition 51 crewmates, the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft will arrive to resupply the orbital laboratory.
NASA TV will provide live streaming coverage of the launch beginning at 2:15 a.m. EDT. About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz capsule and station opened.
"It's so handsome", Fischer told his wife, describing the experience as "a burrito of awesomeness smothered in awesome sauce".
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Fischer also had some comforting words for his mother. "Fyodor told me I should be doing that", he said.
A Soyuz space capsule has delivered an American astronaut making his first space flight and a veteran Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station.
Yurchikhin, 58, has racked up 537 days in space over the course of four missions to the ISS, more than any USA astronaut but some way short of the 879 days logged by record-holding compatriot Gennady Padalka. On that day, Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, will have spent 535 days in space, more time than any other American astronaut. Jeffrey Williams now holds the record.
The 43-year-old might want to seek some advice from fellow NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who is going to receive an out-of-this-world call from President Donald Trump on Monday after beating a special record.