Video: Russian rocket blasts fish into space

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updated 10/23/2012 7:31:49 AM ET 2012-10-23T11:31:49

A Soyuz rocket launched an American astronaut, two Russian cosmonauts and 32 small fish into orbit Tuesday, kicking off a five-month mission to the International Space Station for the human and aquatic explorers.

The Soyuz rocket roared into a clear blue sky from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a two-day flight to the space station. Liftoff occurred at 6:51 a.m. ET.

Riding aboard the rocket's Soyuz TMA-06M space capsule are NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Evgeny Tarelkin. The three men are due to dock at the station on Thursday at 8:35 a.m. ET, and join three crewmates already aboard the orbiting lab. Novitsky is commanding the Soyuz flight.

"I think it's going to be something special, and I will get unforgettable memories," Novitsky said during a NASA briefing before the mission. Novitsky picked a small toy hippo, a gift from his teenage daughter Yana, to use an indicator of when the Soyuz reached the weightless environment of space. [Launch Photos: Soyuz Rocket Blasts Off With Station Crew]

Ford, Novitsky and Tarelkin are the second half of the Expedition 33 crew on the International Space Station. Their mission marks the second spaceflight for Ford, a veteran NASA shuttle pilot, and the first trip to space for Novitsky and Tarelkin.

The 32 medaka fish hitching a ride to the space station on the Soyuz capsule are part of an experiment to study how fish adapt to the absence of gravity. The fish will live inside a space-age fish tank, called the Aquatic Habitat, which was delivered to the space station on an earlier flight.

"I've got training on these fish ... they're a bit larger than guppies," Ford said before flight. "It's 32 fish, plus the three of us."

Most crewed Soyuz launches have lifted off from the historic launch pad used by Yuri Gagarin, who made the first human spaceflight in 1961. But that pad is being renovated, so Tuesday's launch blasted off from a different pad, called Site 31. NASA said it was the first manned launch from the site in 28 years.

The new U.S.-Russian crew will join NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who have been living on the station since July. Williams is commanding the station's Expedition 33 crew.

Tuesday's Soyuz launch came at a busy time for the space station crew.

On Sunday, a robotic Dragon space capsule built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX will depart the space station to wrap up the first cargo delivery flight for NASA under a $1.6 billion commercial resupply contract. On Oct. 31, an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft will launch and dock at the space station within six hours to deliver more cargo.

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Then, on Nov. 1, Williams and Hoshide will venture outside the space station in a spacewalk to fix an ammonia leak in the orbiting laboratory's cooling system.

Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko are due to return to Earth on Nov. 19. Ford will then take command of the space station's Expedition 34 mission at that time.

You can watch Thursday's Soyuz docking live on Space.com via a NASA TV feed. The NASA broadcast will begin at 8 a.m. ET.

You can follow Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik and Space.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook  and Google+.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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