An early-morning launch of the Soyuz rocket made for dramatic photographs of controlled explosions leaving a trail of fire across the sky. The rocket was bringing a new crew to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz rocket lifted off at 1:57 a.m. local time on May 29th to carry the crew of Expedition 40 to the International Space Station. Reid Wiseman, Maxim Suraev, and Alexander Gerst joined three others already on the station, bringing the full Expedition 40 crew up to six astronauts. Each group remains on the station for six months in a staggered rotation, with departures and arrivals of three astronauts every three months. Each full crew earns a new expedition number, so the trio will also be a part of Expedition 41 after the September crew-switch. They will return to Earth in November 2014 at the start of Expedition 42.
Expedition 40 is under the command of Steve Swanson. The expedition's main research themes are remote sensing and a bunch of biology and physiology studies on both humans and Dragon's first live-mammal crew of moustronauts.
Soyuz rocket launch carried the crew of Expedition 40 to the International Space Station on May 29, 2014. Image credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky