The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan occurred at 1:45 am ET on Wednesday.
The trio’s Soyuz capsule is expected to dock with the space station at 4:52 a.m. ET, and the hatch between the space station and the capsule will open at 6:45 a.m. ET, allowing them to enter the station.
This is the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov, and they will spend six months on the space station.
Along for the ride is Yuri, a little cosmonaut knitted by Kud-Sverchkov’s wife Olga. He serves as the crew’s zero gravity indicator. Essentially, once he begins to float, the crew will know they’ve reached space. Each crew gets to pick their own indicator, according to NASA.
Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will briefly overlap with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner will depart the station using the docked Soyuz capsule and return to Earth on October 21.
The 2nd time around
Rubins begins her second mission by launching on her birthday.
She will vote in the US presidential election from the space station, according to NASA. In fact, it’s her second time voting from space. Rubins voted in the 2016 election during her first six-month stay on the space station between July and October 2016.
But training and launching during a pandemic is a new experience for Rubins — although she’s comfortable with personal protective equipment because of her “old life,” she told CNN in September. Prior to becoming an astronaut, she was a scientist who studied viral diseases, cancer biology, microbiology and immunology.
“I started preparing for this before the pandemic during normal crew training,” she said. “When NASA shut down, I learned how to train remotely using video and software. I never thought I would train for spaceflight during a pandemic or do spacewalk training from my living room.”
Rubins was eventually able to return to training in person in Texas and Russia along with her Russian crewmates, all while maintaining distance from each other and wearing masks.
Returning to the space station will allow Rubins to check some items off her bucket list.
She was the first person to sequence DNA in space in 2016, and she’s looking forward to continuing her sequencing research in new ways by studying the microbiome, or microbial environment, of the space station.
“The space station has been separate from Earth for 20 years,” Rubins said. “How is it different? The space station is its own biome with its own resources, with humans coming and going. We want to see what these closed environments do when they’ve been separate for a long time.”
Sequencing DNA can reveal huge amounts of