photographers taking pictures of a soyuzfg rocket booster carrying picture

Blasting Off to the International Space Station

Two Americans and one Russian take flight.

Sergei Savostyanov/Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

3...2...1...liftoff! On March 21, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and American astronauts Richard Arnold and Andrew J. Feustel boarded the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft at Kazakhstan's Balkonur Cosmodrome, bound for the International Space Station some 250 miles above Earth's surface. After a 50-hour flight, the vessel will dock with the ISS and the astronauts will disembark for their five-month stay. Here, a look at the pre-blast preparations:

The Right Stuff? Mikhail Japaridze/Mikhail Japaridze/TASS The Right Stuff? Astronaut training is nothing if not rigorous — a litany of exercises, procedures, and tests to continually prove one's mettle. Back in February, the three men (including Artemyev, seen here) underwent a qualification training session in a simulator in order to be cleared for the following month's launch. Chugging Along VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images Chugging Along The Soyuz MS-08 is transported (by train!) from its hangar to the launch pad on March 19. The craft itself has also undergone a battery of tests — including thermal vacuum checks and specialized testing of the entry module — since it arrived in Kazakhstan in 2017. Poised and Ready VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images Poised and Ready And here's the spacecraft mounted, awaiting its crew. Heaven Help Us VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images Heaven Help Us A Russian Orthodox priest conducts a blessing in front of the spacecraft on March 20. Suiting Up Sergei Savostyanov/Sergei Savostyanov/TASS Suiting Up On the big day, no detail is too small to check and recheck. Here, Arnold's suit gets a final inspection as he prepares to enter the spacecraft. One Last Selfie Sergei Savostyanov/Sergei Savostyanov/TASS One Last Selfie Pic or it didn't happen? Bon Voyage SHAMIL ZHUMATOV/AFP/Getty Images Bon Voyage Feustel waves goodbye as he boards the vessel. With the trio's arrival at the ISS, the crew number will go back to six. (Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and American astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba returned home from the ISS on February 27.) According to NASA, the crew will be "conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development." And Here They Are Going... VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images And Here They Are Going... ...Going... VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images ...Going... ...Gone! Sergei Savostyanov/Sergei Savostyanov/TASS ...Gone!
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