International Team Blasts Off To Space Station

This Soyuz rocket launched the remaining crew of Expedition 42 into orbit on Sunday

Update: The launch went off without a hitch, and all three crew members safely arrived at the International Space Station at 9:48 p.m. EST Sunday evening. Now they can get started on the hundreds of scientific experiments they'll be working on over the next few months, such as observing the genetic makeup of roundworms and levitating cooling liquid metals. (Hopefully we get some sweet videos from that one.)

Soyuz rocket is wheeled to launchpad

Expedition 42

The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft is rolled out to the launch pad by train on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for Nov. 24 and will carry Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA , and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

At the crack of dawn on Friday, the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft was transported via specialized train car to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian rocket is scheduled for liftoff this afternoon and will be carrying an eclectic mix of astronauts to the International Space Station. The team includes three crew members from across the globe: commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, flight engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Italian flight engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency.

The launch, set for 4:01 p.m. EST today, marks the second phase of Expedition 42, which includes six astronauts in total. Shkaplerov, Virts, and Cristoforetti will be joining their other three crew members, who already journeyed to the ISS in late September. Once aboard, the team will remain on the station for five and a half months, conducting experiments and getting everything ready for the arrival of the new commercial crew transport vehicles being built by SpaceX and Boeing.

Despite the serious work that needs to be done, the astronauts have found a way to inject a little humor into their mission. As a nod to their expedition's number 42, the crew made a poster mimicking the one released for the 2005 film Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Perhaps on their journey, they'll find the real answer to life, the Universe, and everything?

An homage to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Ultimate Question

Samantha Cristoforetti via FlickrCC by 2.0

Soyuz Launch

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying the crew members of Expedition 42NASA/Aubrey Gemignani