Science

'Hello, Future': 2 spacecraft, a rocket and a probe blasted off to space

Space usually seems infinitely vast, but it's feeling a little crowded these days — two different crewed missions and two uncrewed missions have just blasted off for their various projects exploring the cosmos.

There will soon be 6 people at the International Space Station, and another 2 at Chinese station

Chinese astronauts reach orbiting space lab

6 years ago
Duration 0:49
2-man crew begin month-long stay on space station 'Heavenly Palace 2'

Space usually seems infinitely vast, but it's feeling a little crowded these days — two different crewed missions and two uncrewed missions have just blasted off for their various projects exploring the cosmos.

In total, there are eight people in space: three at the International Space Station, another three on their way, and another two just made it to China's orbiting station.

There's also a re-supply rocket headed to the ISS, and a possible historic landing of another probe on Mars.

All the activity prompted a tweet of excitement from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who said, "Hello, Future."

3 headed to ISS

The Russian Soyuz rocket successfully blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, early this morning, sending two Russians and an American on a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

The ship carried NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

Their Soyuz MS-02 space capsule is set to dock at the space outpost in two days.

Successful Soyuz launch sends 3 astronauts to space station

6 years ago
Duration 1:02
New crew to replace current team aboard International Space Station

Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko are to spend just over four months at the station before coming back to Earth in late February.

They'll join three astronauts who currently call the space station home: American Kate Rubins, Russian Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan's Takuya Onishi.

Re-supply rocket

With the population of the ISS doubling, it's probably a relief that an uncrewed rocket blasted off Monday with more supplies.

The Antares rocket is owned by Orbital ATK Inc., one of NASA's main delivery companies.

The 14-storey-tall rocket, powered by a pair of new Russian-made engines, lifted off from Wallops Island, Va., Monday evening.

It's carrying more than 2,272 kilograms of food, equipment and research, including some experiments to study flames in space, and a robotic toy ball called Sphero, which is part of an educational effort.

The launch marks the booster's triumphant return to flight two years after a previous version exploded at liftoff. The October 2014 blast wrecked the launch pad and destroyed everything on the space station supply run.

2 dock at Tiangong 2

Also in space, but not to the ISS, is a team from China.

China's Xinhua News Agency said the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft took off Monday morning and docked early Wednesday at the Tiangong 2 orbiting space station.

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, right, and Chen Dong, docked with the Tiangong 2 space station. They will stay there for 30 days to test the complex's ability to support their life. (Chinatopix/Associated Press)

The agency said veteran mission commander Jing Haipeng opened the hatch and entered the station that was launched last month, followed by astronaut Chen Dong, who is making his first journey into space. They will stay for two months.

The mission is China's longest and most ambitious to date, displaying the growing sophistication of the country's crewed program that first launched a human into space 13 years ago.

The Tiangong 2 module is a precursor to a larger space station that is planned to become fully functioning six years from now.

Probe attempts Mars landing

And today, the European Space Agency is attempting a tricky landing on Mars. 

If the Schiaparelli lander is successful, it will gather scientific measurements on the surface, as well as test technology for a future European Mars rover.

The ExoMars Trade Gas Orbiter and its lander Schiaparelli are pictured in this artist's rendering approaching Mars. (ESA/ATG medialab)

The lander separated from its mothership, Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), as scheduled on Sunday. 

With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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