Soyuz rocket on international mission

A Russian spacecraft that is to dock with the International Space Station has blasted off from Kazakhstan with a multi-national crew of three.

    International Space Station's survival depends on Soyuz flights

    The Soyuz TMA-3 lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome on Saturday for a 200-day mission with a Russian, an American and a Spaniard on board. It is due to dock with the 16-nation orbital platform on Monday.

    "This is a very historic day. It again demonstrates the depth of commitment to this partnership," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said after the launch.

    With US space shuttles still grounded after the Columbia disaster early this year, the International Space Station's survival depends on Russian spacecraft.

    "Russian cosmonauts and Russian space authority Rosaviakosmos are carrying the substantial load of maintaining the space station," O'Keefe said.

    Family and friends of the crew members watched the launch on screen in the observation area, before bursting into applause.

    Money worries

    Funding concerns plague the International Space Station, with Russia launching all manned and supply ships to the station since February.

    O'Keefe said Russia should press on with its commitment while the US worked to bring the shuttle back into service.

    "This is a very historic day. It again demonstrates the depth of commitment to this partnership"

    Sean O'Keefe,
    NASA Administrator

    "All the expense and resources the American people are putting into returning the Shuttle to flight, we have no intention of passing these bills across to any of our partners," he said.

    Russia says it needs more money and has started sending space tourists to the station at a fare of $20 million to help cover the cost of building new Soyuz craft.

    Uncertain finances could prompt a delay in the launch to the International Space Station of the next Progress cargo ship from November to January.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Take a tour through East and West Jerusalem to see the difference in quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians.

    Stories from the sex trade

    Stories from the sex trade

    Dutch sex workers, pimps and johns share their stories.

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    As the stigma associated with being childless persists, some elderly women in India risk it all to become mothers.