(PhysOrg.com) - Belgian Frank De Winne, Canadian Robert Thirsk and Russian Roman Romanenko lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for the International Space Station.
"We feel okay. The flight is normal... I can see the sun," Romanenko told Russia's space agency chief, Anatoly Perminov, by radio from the rocket as it hurtled into space on the start of its two day journey to the orbiting station.
When they dock with the ISS, the trio will join the current three-person crew who will remain on the station for several more months rather than heading back home as was the case previously.
This will raise the station's permanent crew to six for the first time, allowing the astronauts to make full use of the capacities of the ISS, which orbits 350 kilometres (220 miles) above Earth.
"It's a very good example that shows the whole world that when countries want to work together for the good of their children we can do incredible things," said De Winne at a news conference in Baikonur ahead of his departure.
"It would be impossible for one country to maintain six people aboard the space station. But thanks to the international cooperation, not just aboard the ISS but between all the space organizations, it will be possible."
The three will be joining Russian Gennady Padalka, US astronaut Michael Barratt and Japan's Koichi Wakata aboard the station.
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