Russia made a successful launch of the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft on Thursday, sending two astronauts on a 136-day space journey, Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities said.
The two astronauts – Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin (pictured) and Jack Fischer of the United States, took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 10:13 Moscow time, and soon reached the International Space Station and joined their three colleagues already living in the orbiting lab as part of Expedition 51. The three crew members have become famous for being available for live interviews with media and updates on social media.
It is very uncommon that a country sends a spacecraft with just two astronauts, instead of three. However, Russia made deep spending cuts to its space program, striving to reduce the number of cargo ships that provide supplies to the station.
The launch was due to take place in late March, but was postponed due to additional safety checks, since an unmanned rocket exploded just six minutes into flight on December 1. The Russian authorities wanted to successfully launch a crewless spacecraft, which they finally managed to do in late February.