Russian-Western crew blasts off for ISS onboard Soyuz rocket

The Soyuz TMA-13M rocket is launched with Expedition 40 Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev, of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, ESA, and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA from th
The Soyuz TMA-13M rocket is launched with Expedition 40 Soyuz Commander Maxim Suraev, of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, ESA, and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA from the Cosmodrome Baikonur in Kazakhstan, in the early hours of May 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: EPA

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AFP) - A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a Russian-Western crew blasted off Wednesday from Kazakhstan for the International Space Station, as space cooperation between Moscow and the West presses on despite their worst standoff since the Cold War.

The rocket took off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan in the night with Russian cosmonaut Maxime Surayev, and his American colleague Reid Wiseman and German Alexander Gerst onboard.

It is expected to reach the ISS in six hours’ time for a mission lasting 167 days. Its return to Earth is due in November.

Surayev, who is on his second long ISS mission, is leading the team, while the other two astronauts are on their first trip.

The crew would be met at the ISS by American astronaut Steve Swanson and Russians Alexandre Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the crew was asked if the current tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine would affect their relationship. In response, they embraced each other.