NASA's Hitchhiking Era Begins

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Last night at 11:14 pm ET, NASA began its hitch-a-ride-on-a-Russian-spacecraft era, safely blasting off astronaut Dan Burbank (pictured left) along with two cosmonauts from a chilly-looking launch pad in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station, according to the agency's news release. Since the mission had been delayed since September and the crew currently in the space station were returning next week, The New York Times informs that there was plenty of hand-wringing from NASA officials that the ISS would be floating around in orbit without any crew members. That won't happen now if everything goes smoothly, as Reuters relays:

"The spaceship has reached orbit," Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov said in a radioed message to the cavernous Mission Control centre in a northern Moscow suburb. Applause broke out as the crew flashed a thumbs-up signal to onboard cameras.

Below is a Associated Press image and CNN video from the launch, a still amazing spectacle whether in Cape Canaveral or Kazakhstan:

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