Space Race: Astronauts break record for quickest journey to International Space Station - making trip in less time than standard flight from London to New York


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The Independent Online

A trio of astronauts have broken the record for the quickest journey to the International Space Station, arriving there just six hours after setting off from a launch pad in Kazakhstan.

The three men – Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin from Russia, and Chris Cassidy from the USA – blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in their Soyuz spacecraft yesterday evening.

They arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:28 GMT today, after travelling for under six hours – a shorter journey time than a standard flight from London to New York.

The voyage usually takes around 50 hours, but today’s super-fast journey time was achieved by setting off from Kazakhstan just after the ISS passed overhead in orbit.

The Soyuz capsule had also been fitted with newly-improved thrusters, and orbited the Earth just four times before arriving at their destination.

On previous missions, spacecrafts have orbited the Earth around 30 times before arriving at the ISS.

The shorter flight path was tested in an attempt to reduce the crew’s fatigue, and allow them to be in top shape for docking.

The three men will now spend around five months at the ISS alongside three other astronauts - American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield - who have been there since December.

Upon arrival, Vinogradov joked “Hey, is anyone home?” as he floated into the station, before greeting the other astronauts. The new arrivals then communicated with Mission Control, and spoke with friends and relatives back on Earth.

Mr Vinogradov also joked that the crew could have even taken ice cream along for their colleagues.

"With such a short flight time, it would not be able to melt", he said.

The successful voyage will help to restore the reputation of the Russian space programme, which has recently been damaged after a number of failed satellite launches in the past year.

Russia is currently the only nation capable of transporting humans to the ISS, following the retirement of the US space shuttle in 2011.