Spacecraft carrying three en route to space station

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian, an American and a Dutchman to the International Space Station blasted off flawlessly from Russia’s launch facility in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

Mission commander Oleg Kononenko and his colleagues, American Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, are to dock with the space station Friday.

The blastoff took place without a hitch, and the spacecraft reached Earth orbit about nine minutes later. Video from inside the craft showed the three crew members gripping each others’ hands in celebration.

The three aboard the Russian spacecraft will join three others already on the ISS, NASA’s Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin. They will work together on the station until March.


Explosives, missiles found on cargo ship impounded

Finnish authorities on Wednesday impounded 160 tons of explosives and 69 surface-to-air missiles found on a British-flagged cargo ship ultimately destined for Shanghai, China, officials said.

The M/S Thor Liberty sailed from the north German port of Emden on Dec. 13 and two days later docked in Kotka, southern Finland, to pick up a cargo of anchor chains, Finnish Customs spokesman Petri Lounatmaa said.

Investigating officers didn’t know the origin of the Patriot missiles or who was supposed to receive them, he said.

Lounatmaa said customs officials and police have launched a joint investigation into a possible breach of Finnish export and weapons trading laws.

— From news service reports