This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts has blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are travelling aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and are expected to dock with the ISS after about six hours of spaceflight.
Their mission is scheduled to last six months.
The three men spent a month in quarantine ahead of the launch amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Journalists were not allowed to enter Baikonur for the traditional farewell press conference as an additional precaution, and the three-man crew was not permitted to say goodbye to their families in person.
Cassidy, 50, admitted that the crew was “affected” by their families not being able to be in Baikonur for the launch.
“But we understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis,” he said.
The new additions to the ISS crew are to join U.S. astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, who are scheduled to return to Earth on April 17.
The space station, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.