| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 25
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 25 Two Russian
cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut blasted off for six-month stay
aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, a partnership
unaffected by the political rancor and economic sanctions
triggered by Russia's annexation of Crimea.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Alexander
Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson
lifted off at 5:17 p.m. EDT/2117 GMT from the Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"The crew is doing great, everything is nominal aboard," a
Russian ground controller, speaking through a translator, said
during a live broadcast of the launch on NASA Television.
The Soyuz capsule perched atop the rocket is scheduled to
reach the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory that
flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth, about six hours
The arrival of Skvortsov, Artemyev and Swanson will return
the station to a full six-member crew. The orbital outpost, a
project of 15 nations, has been short-staffed since two other
cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut returned to Earth on March 11.
The space station partnership, overseen by the United States
and Russia, so far has been immunized from the political and
economic fallout following Russia's invasion of Ukraine's
"We don't want to see political turmoil and it could
ultimately get in the way of our spaceflight, but from the
operator standpoint ... this is absolutely a non-issue for us,"
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, who is due to fly to the station in
May, said in a CBS News interview on March 18.
"I mean, we're three really good friends climbing into a
Soyuz (capsule) to fly into space. All politics aside, there's
no doubt it's going to work for us," Wiseman said.
The United States currently pays Russia more than $63
million per seat to fly its astronauts to and from the space
The Russian part of the station taps electricity generated
by U.S.-owned and operated solar wing panels and supplements its
ground-based communications with NASA's orbital satellite
network, among other U.S.-provided services.
One of the first orders of business for the newly arriving
station crewmembers will be to capture and berth a Space
Exploration Technologies' Dragon cargo capsule, which is due to
launch on Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in
Two Russian spacewalks are planned during the crew's
six-month mission, as well as two or three outings overseen by
(Editing by Eric Walsh)