This morning, three astronauts are launching inside a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station, where they’ll stay for the next five and a half months. NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, and German astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency are all headed to low Earth orbit, launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12AM ET. They’ll be taking the place of three crew members who just left the ISS and landed back on Earth on Sunday.
It’ll mark the first trips to space for both Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev, as well as the second trip for Gerst. Originally this crew was supposed to include NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps, who would have become the first African-American crew member on the ISS. However, NASA pulled Epps from the mission in January without much of an explanation. She was replaced by Auñón-Chancellor, who was assigned for a later mission to the ISS, and NASA said that Epps could still be assigned to missions in the future.
Once they launch, the trio will spend two days in orbit before docking with the ISS on Friday at 9:07AM ET. They’ll then enter the orbiting lab a couple hours later and be greeted by the three crew members already on board: NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev.
NASA’s coverage of the launch is set to begin at 6:15AM ET; check back then to watch these new crew members take off live.