Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launches three astronauts to ISS

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The trio aboard the rocket will be on the International Space Station for six and a half months before heading back to Earth.

At 6:31 a.m. EST, the Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Ahead of Monday's launch a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the spaceship on its launchpad, in accordance with tradition, while the crew spoke calmly of the dangers involved.

"I know that it's something that means a lot to him and his family and the team that got him there", she said.

NASA also repeatedly dispelled drama between the two space agencies in the past, promising continued cooperation.

Julie Payette, herself a former astronaut. They smiled and waved, with Saint-Jacques blowing kisses and giving the thumbs-up to a crowd of well-wishers. "As the African proverb says, if we choose to go alone, we might go fast, but if we go together we go farther".

NASA's Anne McClain, the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko reached orbit minutes after the smooth launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:31 a.m. PT.

He said Ovchinin and Hague would be on board, along with NASA's Christina Koch. "Everything looking good, vehicle is stable - good first stage performance".

The three were greeted upon arrival Monday by the station's current crew members, who had waited outside the hatch after the astronauts' capsule docked and underwent safety checks.

Thirsk is no stranger to long-duration space flight.

Astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons echoed the message, saying Saint-Jacques was a special role model for her and other young people who may be considering a future in space.

"Space is changing so quickly and my hope is Canada's as much a participant as it has ever been in global programs moving forward", she said.

The launch comes less than two months after a booster failure forced a Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and USA astronaut Nick Hague to make an emergency landing.

Investigators blamed a faulty sensor which they said had been damaged during assembly at the Kazakh site.

NASA announced Monday that Hague and Ovchinin will now launch to the space station on February 28, along with NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch.

NASA's Anne McClain, Russia's Oleg Kononenko, Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques. Aboard the station, Saint-Jacques will be conducting a number of science experiments, including research on the provision of remote medical care and on the effects of microgravity on the body. "The challenge for him will be to pace himself to accomplish the work that's expected of him".

Once Saint-Jacques, McClain and Kononenko settled in to their new roles, and command of the station can be passed from Gerst to Kononenko, Gerst, Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev will return to Earth on December 20.