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Contact: Karina De Castris
European Space Agency

Lift off for ENEIDE mission

Launch of the Eneide Mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

The latest chapter in ESA's human spaceflight programme opened this morning while most Europeans were still asleep.

At 06.46 local time (02.46 Central European Time), ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board a Soyuz rocket. Nine minutes later, the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft successfully reached orbit.

A last wave from Roberto Vittori before entering the Soyuz spacecraft
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Seated alongside Vittori are Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and NASA astronaut John Phillips - the 11th long-term crew to visit the International Space Station (ISS). Over the next two days, their spacecraft will gradually close the gap on the ISS.

Automatic docking with the Station is expected to take place at 04:19 CET on 17 April, with entry into the Station two orbits later at 07:05.

As the Flight Engineer on Soyuz TMA-6, Vittori is involved in piloting and docking the spacecraft. He will also play a key part in the re-entry, descent and landing when he returns to Earth in Soyuz TMA-5 on 25 April. Vittori will be the first European astronaut to visit the ISS for a second time. During eight days on board, he will carry out experiments to study the human body, biology and technology.

In one experiment, school children on Earth will discover how their seeds develop compared with seeds grown in space.

ENEIDE is the 46th mission involving European astronauts. The mission is sponsored by Italy, and many of the experiments were also designed and built in Italy.