The second phase of Expedition 42 will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome via Soyuz rocket (above) today at 4:01PM EST. Carrying three astronauts from ESA, NASA, and the Russian Federal Space Agency, the rocket will then rendezvous with the International Space Station about six hours later.
You can watch the launch live via NASA TV with coverage beginning at 3pm, and you can also watch the crew dock with the space station as well later tonight at 9:53pm. This will be astronaut Terry Virts second trip into space, but unlike his last trip, which only lasted two weeks, Virts will be taking up a more permanent residence for about five and half months. He'll be a flight engineer during the 42 expedition and will be ISS commander during expedition 43.
According to Popular Science, one of the team's goals will be preparing ISS for the new commercial transport vehicles being constructed by Boeing and SpaceX. Boeing's CST-100 Space Capsule and SpaceX's Dragon shared NASA's $6.8 billion space taxi program and is expected to end the U.S.'s reliance on Russia for rides to ISS. Oh, they'll also be bringing an espresso machine.
Update: You can now watch a replay of the Soyuz launch.
Need another reason to cheer on these astronauts? This picture should suffice:
Update: The rocket launched as planned without a hitch and absolutely lit up a cold night in Kazakhstan.
Images via NASA/Aubrey Gemignani