Spacecraft carrying first Belarus woman cosmonaut lifts off

Published March 24, 2024
NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Oleg Novitskiy of Russia and Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus wave while leaving for a pre-launch preparation at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome.—Reuters
NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Oleg Novitskiy of Russia and Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus wave while leaving for a pre-launch preparation at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome.—Reuters

MOSCOW: Marina Vasilevskaya, Belarus’ first woman cosmonaut, was aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that blasted off successfully on Saturday headed for the International Space Station, Moscow’s Roscosmos space agency said.

“The Soyuz took off from Baikonur” in Kazakhstan at 1236 GMT, a Roscosmos statement said, adding that the spacecraft went into orbit “as planned”. Initially programmed for Thursday, the take-off was delayed on the launchpad at the last moment in another high-profile setback for Russia’s space programme that has been hit by financial problems, scandal, corruption and failure.

Roscosmos chief Yuri Borisov said a “voltage dip” had occurred in a chemical power source during the final pre-launch preparations. But on Saturday the Soyuz MS-25 mission took off from the Baikonur space port without apparent problems and carrying three astronauts — experienced Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, Tracy Dyson from the United States and 33-year-old Vasilevskaya. “Everything is fine on board,” Novitsky said shortly after lift-off in a video broadcast by Roscosmos.

The Soyuz craft was due to dock on Monday at 1510 GMT with the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS). Moscow’s once pioneering space programme has faced multiple setbacks since it won the first leg of the space race more than 60 years ago.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2024

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