Moscow – A trio of U.S. and Russian spacefarers are set to blast off for the International Space Station from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday at 1:05 pm (0805 GMT).
U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will travel aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and are scheduled to dock with the ISS’s Poisk module after about six hours of spaceflight.
The three men spent a month in quarantine ahead of the launch amid concerns over the highly infectious coronavirus, which has caused a global pandemic in recent months.
“We feel fantastic,” Cassidy told a televised press conference a day before the launch.
Journalists were not allowed to enter Baikonur as a precaution.
The spacefarers, who are scheduled to spend 196 days aboard the space station, were as an additional precaution not allowed to say goodbye to their families in person.
The space station orbits about 400 kilometres above Earth and has a mostly U.S. and Russian crew.
The laboratory is tasked with conducting scientific experiments that would be impossible on Earth’s surface.
The new additions to the ISS crew are to join U.S. astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka.
Next week, on April 17, Morgan, Meir and Skripochka are scheduled to return to Earth. \