3 astronauts set to launch to space station on Monday

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Washington, Dec 2 (IANS) Three space travellers, including two astronauts on their first flight, are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday for a six-and-a-half month mission, NASA said.

The launch comes less than two months after a booster failure forced a Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague to make an emergency landing.

The incident became the first failure of a manned space launch in modern Russian history.

The three new space travellers — Anne McClain of NASA, David Saint-Jacquesof the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos – are preparing to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft at 5.31 p.m. from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.

Following a six-hour journey making four orbits of Earth, the crew will dock the Soyuz to the station’s Poisk module to begin their mission on the orbital laboratory.

It will be the first flight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth for Kononenko.

Less than two hours after docking, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open, and the current crew, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA Flight Engineer Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev, who have been in orbit since June, will greet them.

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques will officially become the Expedition 58 crew when Gerst, Aunon-Chancellor and Prokopyev depart the station for home on December 20.