After two months’ delay, a manned mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to blast off tonight at 11:14 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (0415 GMT Nov. 14) from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, MSNBC reported.
NASA flight engineer Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will fly a Russian-built Soyuz rocket to the station, arriving on Nov. 16. The station’s current crew – commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov – will return to Earth on Nov. 21.
According to The Associated Press:
The mission had been delayed for two months after the failed launch of an unmanned Progress cargo ship in August. The failure was blamed on a manufacturing flaw and cast doubt on the future of manned flights because the upper stage of the Soyuz booster rocket that carries the cargo ships into orbit is similar to that used to launch astronauts.
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"We have no black thoughts and full confidence in our technology," Shkaplerov told journalists at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the AP reported.
NASA officials told the New York Times that they, too, were confident that the Soyuz rocket was safe to fly.
“The Russian commission has talked to us and explained the basis for their analysis,” William H. Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s human exploration and operations mission directorate, told the New York Times. “They’ve done everything we would do to make sure everything is fine, and we’re ready to go launch.”
On Oct. 30, the Russian space agency sent an unmanned Progress 45 cargo ship to the station successfully, MSNBC reported.
Three more astronauts are scheduled to fly to the space station in another Soyuz-powered capsule next month. “Once we have the December flight, we’re pretty much back on a regular schedule,” Gerstenmaier told the Times.