16 Dec 2015

Russian, American and Briton arrive at Intl Space Station

1:37 pm on 16 December 2015

A Soyuz spacecraft successfully delivered a Russian, an American and a Briton to the International Space Station on Tuesday after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Photographers take pictures as Russia's Soyuz spacecraft blasts off.

Photographers take pictures as Russia's Soyuz spacecraft blasts off. Photo: AFP

The otherwise smooth journey ended with a slightly delayed docking at 6.33 am, NZ time, as Russian commander Yuri Malenchenko aborted the automatic procedure and manually guided the spacecraft toward the station.

Alongside Malenchenko, a veteran of long-duration space flights who is on his fourth space mission, were NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Briton Tim Peake, both former Apache military helicopter pilots.

Peake, 43, became the first astronaut representing the British government and wore a Union Jack flag on his arm.

Peake smiled cheerfully and looked confident as he prepared to board the spacecraft earlier on Tuesday.

He was seen off by his family after going through all the Baikonur pre-launch rituals, such as signing his hotel door and receiving a blessing from an Orthodox priest.

Most of these traditions, such as watching "White Sun of the Desert", a 1970 Soviet action film, on the eve of a launch, date back to the early years of space exploration. Even the launch pad used for manned flights has remained the same since Yuri Gagarin's first mission in 1961.

In their new home, the crew will work, sleep and exercise in a dozen modules, together about the same volume as two Boeing 747s.

The three crew members join the existing taskforce on board the ISS - Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov.

Mr Kelly and Mr Kornienko were approaching the ninth month of their one-year ISS mission.

A maximum of 10 crew members can live on the station.

Mr Peake will spend six months on board the ISS where he will conduct scientific experiments and carry out educational projects designed to attract young people into science.

Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake are set to return to Earth on June 5 next year.