A Soyuz spacecraft with three astronauts successfully launched towards the International Space Station, marking the 500th manned launch in space travel history.
The trio – including the first Danish citizen to fly into space – blasted off in the Soyuz TMA 18M rocket on schedule at 4:37 on Wednesday (local time) from the same launchpad that Yuri Gagarin used for his historic entry into the cosmos in 1961.
"The crew is doing well, everything is in order on board," relayed mission control at Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
Veteran cosmonaut Sergei Volkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is leading a team that also includes first-time flyers Aidyn Aimbetov from Kazakhstan (Kazcosmos) and Andreas Mogensen from Denmark (European Space Agency).
They are expected to make the journey to the ISS in two days, docking on Friday about 7:42.
Volkov will stay on at the ISS, while both Aimbetov and Mogensen will return to earth on Soyuz TMA-16M on September 12.
Mogensen is the first Dane to enter space while Aimbetov, who replaced British singer Sarah Brightman after the 54-year-old pulled out of the mission in June, is the third from his country to do so.
"It's a great honour for me to represent Denmark as an astronaut," Mogensen said in a Google hangout organised by ESA last month.
Mogensen, 38, will be joined by 26 custom-made Lego models provided especially for the mission by the world-famous Danish toy manufacturer, as well as the writing of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
Aimbetov, 43, took dried horse milk and several other national staples from the central Asian country into space with him as well as a toy from his daughter, who said she hoped he would encounter alien life.