VIDEO: US-Russian crew blasts off in Soyuz rocket for International Space Station

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan - A Russian spacecraft blasted off into a clear Central Asian sky Tuesday, carrying a three-man crew on their way to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz TMA-06M lifted off from the rolling steppes of Kazakhstan as scheduled Tuesday afternoon to deliver NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin to the orbiting station.

After a two-day journey, they will join U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide of Japan's JAXA agency.

Of the three, only Ford has been on a space flight before. He spent two weeks in space as pilot of the space shuttle Discovery in 2009 on a mission to transport scientific equipment to the station.

For the first time since 1984, the manned launch took place from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome's launch pad 31. The pad that is normally used, from which Yury Gagarin began his landmark space mission in 1961, is undergoing modernization.

The Soyuz craft is the only means for astronauts to reach the space station since the decommissioning of the U.S. shuttle fleet in 2011.

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