Sussex astronaut Major Tim Peake has blasted off into orbit on board the Soyuz space capsule on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
The Russian rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in front of the world’s media following weeks of preparation.
Major Peake, 43, is making history as the first fully British professional astronaut to be employed by a space agency.
Images of the launch showed the trail of flames the rocket left in its wake as it sped up into the blue sky, before it became a tiny fleck in the distance.
A view of inside the capsule showed the astronauts in their space suits as the rocket lifted off.
Major Peake could be identified by the Union Flag on his sleeve.
He smiled at the camera, waved and gave a thumbs up as they sat back in their seats for the journey into space.
Zero gravity was reached by the Soyuz spacecraft after nine minutes of travel.
Major Peake and the crew will have experienced a feeling of weightlessness as they reached the third and final stage of launch before hitting orbit.
The so-called gravity indicator inside the capsule could be seen floating away in the on-board footage.
Both the Soyuz capsule and the ISS can be spotted by the naked eye shortly before the docking procedure this evening, according to the ESA.
Appearing to pass over London somewhere between 17.14pm and 17.17pm, the ISS should be visible in the sky.
Not far behind it will be Major Peake and his crew, whose progress might be seen by eagle-eyed observers.
It will pass almost directly over London, so people living north of the capital should try to look to the south, and those below it should look more to the north.
The ESA said a blog: “Using the bright reflection of the ISS as a beacon, you might spot the Soyuz with Tim, Tim and Yuri as well.
“At the time the distance between the station and Soyuz will be very small as they will be 10 minutes from docking or a few hundred metres from the station.”
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