A retired Marine officer was one of three astronauts aboard a Soyuz space capsule that successfully blasted off for the International Space Station on Friday.

NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Russia’s Sergei Ryazansky and Italy’s Paolo Nespoli lifted off from the Russia-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan shortly after sunset, around 11:41 a.m. Eastern. They were to travel about six hours before docking at the space station.

The three will join NASA’s Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson as well as the veteran Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

Bresnik, a retired colonel, previously logged 10 days in space when he flew on a mission in 2009, performing two spacewalks. While in the Marine Corps, he served as an F/A-18 test pilot and flew combat missions in support of Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his NASA bio.


He’s flown more than 6,000 hours in more than 80 types of aircraft, per his bio. He was selected for the astronaut program in 2004 and completed training in 2006. 

Russia’s Ryazansky is the crew’s most experience astronaut with 160 days in space under his belt.

The incoming crew will contribute to more than 250 experiments conducted at the orbiting lab in fields such as biology, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Flight Engineer Whitson earlier this week was doing research for a cancer study that may help develop more effective treatments for cancer patients, NASA reported.