SpaceX launches new crew to ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER  -  Three American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut blasted off Sunday night from Florida for a six-month mission on the Internation­al Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 10:53 pm (0353 GMT Monday) from the Kennedy Space Center, lighting up the night sky with a long, bright plume of orange flame. Just minutes after the launch, as the rocket soared over the Atlantic, it was moving at a speed of 6,000 miles per hour, NASA TV commentators said. It took about nine minutes for the capsule to settle into orbit as it prepared to dock with the ISS and relieve four other crew members. A first attempt to launch the mis­sion Saturday was scrubbed due to high winds. Endeavour, the capsule that carried the three men and one woman into orbit, has already been launched four times by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The com­pany has been providing as­tronaut launch services for NASA since 2020 under the US space agency’s Commer­cial Crew Program, with rival contractor Boeing yet to fin­ish its certification. Matthew Dominick, leader of the Crew-8 mission, is making his first spaceflight, as is fellow Ameri­can Jeanette Epps. It will also be the first time for Russian Alexander Grebenkin. Michael Barratt, a physician, is making his third visit to the ISS. His first two were aboard space shuttles, which were discon­tinued in 2011. Space remains a rare area of cooperation be­tween the United States and Russia since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The United States last month imposed fresh sanc­tions on 500 Russian targets, seeking also to exact a cost for the death of Russian opposi­tion leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison. Seven people are currently aboard the ISS. After an overlap of a few days, four members of the current ISS crew -- an American, a Dane and one person each from Ja­pan and Russia -- will return to Earth in their own capsule.

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