Final preparations underway at Baikonur for next space crew’s blast off

The Soyuz rocket that will take the next crew to the International Space Station, has been raised into position at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for December 21.

After being manually assembled in the Cosmodrome’s workshop, the Soyuz-FG has been raised on to the launch pad. The rocket will carry the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft to the International Space Station with three cosmonauts aboard – Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov from Roskosmos, NASA flight engineer Timothy J. Creamer and flight engineer Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The most important thing is that we are excellent friends and colleagues, and we can do everything,” Kotov told RT.

Kotov’s teammate Noguchi shows a similarly high-spirited attitude when talking about the mission. “I think that is the beauty of the International Space Station – that all the countries are working together,” Noguchi said. “We’ve been traveling all over the world, training in different countries and different languages, but as long as we can communicate, we can do a lot of good things together.”

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The trio will spend six months on the space complex making improvements to the station and conducting experiments. They will join Expedition 22 Commander Jeffrey Williams of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, who have been on the station since October.