Russian capsule carrying three astronauts docks with space station


A rocket is set to launch to the International Space Station on Saturday, the same day as the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

The new expedition consists of veteran Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov, experienced Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, and USA astronaut Andrew Morgan, for whom it will be the first space flight.

The trio will be welcomed into the ISS by Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos after docking which is expected at around 2250 GMT.

The Soyuz capsule docked at 22:48 GMT Saturday, just six hours and 20 minutes after blasting off from Russia's launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

A veteran of two ISS missions, Skvortsov is the flight commander for the six-hour journey from Baikonur to the ISS.

Speaking at a pre-launch news conference in Baikonur, Parmitano, 42, said the crew were "lucky and privileged" to have their launch coincide with the Apollo 11 date, and indicated that they were wearing badges honouring the anniversary.

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The launch marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to step on the surface of the moon. You can peruse the NASA TV schedule here.

Selected by NASA in 2013, Morgan is making his first trip to space.

The launch took place on the 50th anniversary of the day USA astronauts landed on the moon.

In a year that the Apollo missions have returned to the spotlight, U.S. President Donald Trump has set a goal of the U.S. space program getting astronauts back on the moon by 2024. And it will be the third spaceflight for Skvortsov, the most experienced space traveler of the group, who has spent a total of 345 days in space over the course of three separate expeditions to the International Space Station.

Skvortsov, Morgan and Parmitano all come from military backgrounds and posed together in uniform in the build up to the launch. Once the docking is complete, the crew members balance the air pressure of the space cabin with the Station before opening the hatches.