The Soyuz launcher and spacecraft that will propel ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim Suarev to the International Space Station on 28 May following liftoff at 19:56 GMT (21:56 pm CEST).
The Soyuz is assembled in a nearby building and then moved to the pad by train horizontally before being erected for launch.
A lift takes the trio to the top of the 45 m-tall rocket to clamber into their spacecraft. They have a two-hour wait in the cramped cockpit as technicians complete preparations for the rocket to consume 274 tonnes of propellants on the way to orbit.
In less than 10 minutes they will travel 1640 km and accelerate to an astonishing 28 000 km/h before arriving six hours later at their new home for the next six months.
This will be the start of Alexander’s Blue Dot mission as scientist and flight engineer on the Station’s Expeditions 40 and 41.
Blue Dot includes dozens of experiments in physics, biology, human physiology and radiation. A highlight will be the installation of the German-built Electromagnetic Levitator. This furnace can melt and solidify metal alloys away from the container’s walls, helping scientists to understand the solidification and physical properties of molten alloys.
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