Amid frigid conditions, three explorers blasted off from a central Asian spaceport on Wednesday and are headed to the International Space Station.
Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn and Canada’s Chris Hadfield launched aboard a Soyuz rocket at 7:12 a.m. EST.
NASA spokesman Rob Navias likened conditions at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to those at the North Pole, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reports.
“All that’s missing is Santa and his reindeer,” he said.
A holiday season-hookup is scheduled to take place at 9:12 a.m. Friday – the trio’s arrival time at the station, which was flying 254 miles above the South Atlantic Ocean west of Angola at launch time.
The new crew will join U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford and two Russian cosmonauts – Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin – aboard the outpost.
All three will serve as flight engineers until Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin return to Earth in March. At that time, Hadfield will take the helm of the station, becoming the first Canadian commander of the space station.
Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko are scheduled to return to Earth in May.