Astronauts blast off on Moon landing anniversary

An international crew has blasted off on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The Soyuz capsule will make four orbits of the International Space Station.

An international crew has blasted off on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The Soyuz capsule will make four orbits of the International Space Station. Photo: Getty

Fifty years ago the Cold War between America and Russia helped fuel the space race that resulted in the historic lunar landing in 1969.

Decades later and a Russian, American and Italian are sitting side by side in a spacecraft as they hurtle through the atmosphere.

The Russian space capsule with three astronauts aboard has lifted off on a fast-track trip to the International Space Station (ISS) on the 50th anniversary of the US moon landing.

The Soyuz craft is carrying Andrew Morgan of the United States on his first spaceflight, Russian Alexander Skvortsov, the Commander on his third mission to the space station, and Italy’s Luca Parmitano, who previously flew in 2013.

Italian Luca Parmitano (top) prepares for launch to the International Space Station in the Soyuz MS-13 rocket with Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Russia and flight engineer Drew Morgan of NASA. Photo: Getty

The patch on the crew’s spacesuits, to mark this expedition, echoes the one from NASA’s moon mission.

The capsule entered orbit nine minutes after lift-off from Russia’s launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan and will dock with the ISS about six hours later after just four orbits.

The crew will be greeted on the ISS by Russian Alexey Ovechkin and Americans Nick Hague and Christina who have been aboard since March and have laid out the cutlery for their visitors.

The timing of the trip was reportedly co-incidental but Morgan said the crew was honoured to serve as a symbolic link between the past and present.

“I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing than launching on the anniversary with an international crew, especially in light of NASA’s reaffirmation that we intend to land a crew on the surface of the moon in 2024,” Morgan said.

The Russian, Skvortsov, said he hoped space exploration would continue a forward momentum.

“The moon mission and the moon landing, the first steps of a human being on the surface of the moon, are so important,” Skvortsov said before the launch.

“They are in the memory and in the hearts of every person on Earth. Such significant events demonstrate how important it is to go forward. I hope we keep going forward.”

The Trump administration has vowed to get astronauts back on the moon by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned, and then on to Mars in the 2030s.

Mr Trump was briefed on his administration’s plans when he met with the original Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on the 50th anniversary.

“We’re bringing the glamour back” to the space program, Mr Trump said.

Meanwhile across the US, thousands of people are celebrating the moon landing milestone, from visiting the space centre to eating moon pies.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Aldrin showed Vice President Mike Pence the launch pad where he flew to the moon in 1969.

Buzz Aldrin, left, with Vice President Mike Pence, center, and Rick Armstrong, son of Neil Armstrong at the launch pad where Apollo 11 took off 50 years ago at the Kennedy Space Centre. Photo: AAP

And in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, nearly 2000 runners competed in “Run to the Moon” races.

“We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most historic event in my lifetime, maybe in anybody’s lifetime, the landing on the moon,” said 10K runner Robert Rocco, 54, of Centerville, Ohio.

“The ’60s were very turbulent. But that one bright wonderful moment was the space program.”



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