It's out of this world: trio save 45 hours by taking express route to space station
WHILE millions of people around Europe are resigned to the hours of travel involved in their Easter getaway, three men are celebrating a spectacularly swift cosmic getaway.
The two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut have knocked 45 hours off the usual travel time to the International Space Station, completing what used to be a 50-hour journey in just under six hours.
After blasting off from the Russian-run Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the crew orbited the Earth only four times – instead of the previous 30 – before docking.
Their rapid journey was made possible by launching the Soyuz rocket just after the space station had passed overhead.
After reaching orbit, the Soyuz capsule then had just over 1,000 miles to make up to catch the station, which it achieved thanks to improved thrusters and manoeuvring.
The three men – Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin from Russia and the American Chris Cassidy – are expected to spend the next five months on board the station.
The successful fast-track voyage is a huge boost for the embattled Russian space programme, the reputation of which had been battered by several failed satellite launches. After the retirement of the US space shuttle, Russia is now the sole nation capable of transporting humans to the space station.
Mr Vinogradov (59), one of Russia's most experienced cosmonauts, said the reduced journey time helped the crew because they would only start to experience the ill effects of weightlessness after four hours of flight, and would therefore be in better shape when they arrived at the station for the docking procedure. (© Daily Telegraph, London)