Rocket blasts off with two Russians, one American

Rocket blasts off with two Russians, one American

Rocket blasts off with two Russians, one American

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft carrying crew to the international space station (ISS) blasts off from the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on Friday. AP

The Soyuz craft carrying California native Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko rose from the Baikonur cosmodrome on schedule.

Powerful booster rockets shattered the stillness of the immense and arid Kazakh steppe, propelling the Soyuz heavenward atop an iridescent flow of flames against the clear sky. Spectators gazed as the craft disappeared into a faint dot.

The craft, which thundered into orbit at more than 8,000 miles per hour (13,000 kilometers per hour) about 10 minutes into the flight, docks Sunday with the space station, orbiting about 200 miles (320 kilometers) above the Earth.

Live pictures broadcast from the craft showed expedition head Skvortsov smiling as a toy duck nicknamed "Quack" dangled overhead. Once the craft entered orbit, the fluffy talisman began to float, demonstrating zero gravity.

"The vehicle is performing fine," Skvortsov was heard as saying after a long communications disruption due to static. Caldwell Dyson didn't respond to questions from Russian mission control in Moscow asking how she was, apparently due to to radio interference.

The same launch pad was used by Yuri Gagarin when he made the first human trip into orbit in 1961
William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, called the launch "super."