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Blastoff! Cosmonaut snaps amazing photos of Soyuz rocket launch from space

Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner photographed a Soyuz rocket launching three colleagues to space on Oct. 14, 2020. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

A cosmonaut in orbit caught stunning photos of three astronauts launching on a record-setting jaunt to the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner has been in orbit since April, one of three astronauts living and working on the orbiting laboratory for the past six months. But now, he and his colleagues have company: two more cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut, who launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan Wednesday (Oct. 14) at 1:45 a.m. EDT (0545 GMT; 10:45 a.m. local time). The Soyuz arrived at the station just over three hours later, a new record for the fastest crewed trip to the orbiting lab.

"Congratulations on the successful launch!" Vagner wrote on Twitter shortly after the launch. "The flight seen from space looks even cooler than from the Earth!"

Related: International Space Station at 20: A photo tour

Astronauts on the space station are often able to photograph their colleagues' launches because these liftoffs are carefully timed with the space station's orbit to ensure that the new vehicle can catch up to the behemoth station.

In the case of today's launch, that timing was a new variation on the theme: For the first time, a crew arrived at the International Space Station after just two orbits of Earth, compared to the usual four or more. The speedy path meant that the new crew set a record, docking at the space station just 3 hours and 3 minutes after launch, according to another tweet from Vagner

Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner photographed a Soyuz rocket launching three colleagues to space on Oct. 14, 2020.  (Image credit: Roscosmos)

With that flight, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov began their six-month stay in orbit, joining NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. The latter three will wrap up their stint in orbit later this month, returning to Earth Oct. 21.

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Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.