air-and-space crew members boarded the air-and-space” target=”_blank”>International Space Station (ISS)< astronaut Mark Vande Hei and world-regions cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in world-regions at 3:42 a.m. ET.
After a two-orbit journey that spanned for more than three hours, the hatches between the ISS and the Soyuz opened at 9:20 a.m. ET, flying above the South Pacific.
The launch came just three days before the 60th anniversary of the first human flight to space by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the 40th anniversary of the first launch of NASA’s space shuttle.
According to Space.com, the Soyuz MS-18 — named for Gagarin — is Russia’s 64th Soyuz spacecraft to launch for the ISS since 2000 and the 147th to fly since 1967.
While it’s Novitskiy’s third space mission and Vande Hei’s second, Dubrov is on his first mission.
Vande Hei, Dubrov and Novitsky will stay aboard the space station through at least October, though Vande Hei’s stay may be extended to a year.
While on board, the trio will work on hundreds of scientific experiments across various fields — in addition to spacewalks — and Dubrov will become the 243rd person to visit the unique microgravity laboratory, according to a NASA blog post.
In this image provided by NASA, from left, U.S. astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov, members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), attend a news conference in the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, April 8, 2021. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP
They are joining the seven Expedition 64 members, temporarily increasing the station’s population to 10.
NASA’s Flight Engineer Kate Rubins and Roscosmos’ Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov arrived at the station aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft in October 2020.
NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker and world-regions astronaut Soichi Noguchi reached the ISS in November of last year on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience.
Expedition 65 officially begins on Friday, April 16, with the departures of Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov.
A handoff ceremony is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on April 15 and is set to be broadcast live on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website.
During Expedition 65, the arrival of NASA’s Crew-2 aboard the second operational SpaceX Crew Dragon flight “Endeavour” will bring four more members to the ISS.
Crew-2 is slated for launch on April 22.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.