U.S.-Russian crew blasts off to space station; signs 'not good' for Mars lander

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft carrying the crew of Shane Kimbrough of the U.S., Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off from Kazakhstan Wednesday for a journey to the International Space Station. The Soyuz spaceship carrying NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will travel in space for two days before docking at the station, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency lost contact with an experimental Mars probe shortly before its planned landing on the Red Planet Wednesday. Scientists said that wasn't a good sign for the Schiaparelli lander, but it was too soon to give up on the craft.

It's clear that these are not good signs.

Paolo Ferri, ESA's head of operations

ESA successfully put Schiaparelli's mother ship, which will analyze the Martian atmosphere, into orbit. But several hours after the lander was supposed to have touched down, there was no firm word on its fate. Schiaparelli was meant to test technology for a future European robotic mission to Mars. It is part of a larger international mission called ExoMars that will help in the hunt for life on the planet. Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously difficult, and several past missions have failed.

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