A three-person crew successfully reached the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday aboard a Russian rocket after the fastest ever journey from Earth of just over three hours.
The mission of the Soyuz space craft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and one Nasa astronaut was of immense importance to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, coming as the SpaceX programme relaunches manned spaceflight from the US and ignites fresh talk of a space race between the two countries.
Roscosmos said: “A new record for flights to the International Space Station was set – the total time from launch to docking of the Soyuz MS-17 was three hours and three minutes.”
Roscosmos has had the job of ferrying US astronauts to the ISS since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.
Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and Nasa’s Kathleen Rubins launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0545 GMT on Wednesday.
Journeys to the ISS usually take around six hours – a time that was a vast improvement on the two-day flights that prevailed prior to 2013.
Wednesday’s manned journey even beat the fastest time for missions just carrying supplies to the station.
Only an unmanned Progress cargo space ship has previously used this profile which requires just two orbits before docking.