BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) - A Russian rocket roared into space Monday carrying a new crew headed for the international space station on the third manned mission since the halt of the U.S. shuttle program.
American Michael Fincke, Russian Gennady Padalka and Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands, representing the European Space Agency, were to spend two days en route to the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft. The Russian-built capsule is the only means to get to the orbital outpost since the suspension of U.S. space shuttle flights following the February 2003 Columbia disaster.
"Our Russian partners are picking up the ball," Fincke said. "It's very symbolic what we can do when people all over the world work together."
Just before boarding the spacecraft, the trio paused to wave farewell to relatives, space officials and others who had traveled to the desolate Baikonur cosmodrome, in the steppes of Kazakhstan. Padalka held up two fingers in a victory sign, Fincke gave a thumbs-up and Kuipers brandished a clenched fist.