October 21, 2012 - 16:49 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A Russian-made Soyuz rocket was erected into place Sunday, October 21 ahead of the start of a mission to take a three-man crew to the International Space Station, AP reported.
For the first time since 1984, the manned launch will take place from Baikonur cosmodrome launch pad 31, while the pad that is normally used, from which Yury Gagarin began his landmark space mission, is undergoing modernization.
The Soyuz craft remains the only means for international astronauts to reach the space station since the decommissioning of the U.S. Shuttle fleet in 2011.
NASA's Kevin Ford and Russian astronauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin will blast off Tuesday from the Russian-leased facility in southern Kazakhstan and will spend around six months on the orbiting laboratory.
They will join U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan's JAXA agency.
Russia's Roscosmos space agency spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said launch pad 31 had recently been renovated and already been used for an unmanned mission over the summer.
"Now we need to do similar things at Site No. 1. As soon as that is finished, it will be in a condition to resume launches," he said.
Site No. 1, better known as Gagarin's Start in recognition of the historic 1961 mission, was last overhauled in 1983.
The need for a back-up launch site became particularly acute with the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet, when Gagarin's Start became the only operating pad available for manned launches to the space station.
The Soyuz's trip will last around two days and end when it docks with the Poisk module in the Russian segment of the ISS.