Russia's Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft lifted off on Saturday night from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on a trip to the International Space Station, a three-crew mission whose launch comes on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
The Soyuz took off at the scheduled time of 9.28 pm (1628 GMT) with the help of the Soyuz-FG booster rocket and is due to land at the orbiting platform in six hours after orbiting four times around the Earth.
Its crew members - Russia's Alexandr Skvortsov, American Andrew R. Morgan and Italy's Luca Parmitano - all wore a special patch on their spacesuits to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon.
The patch, which bears a close resemblance to the original one used for the Apollo 11 mission, features an eagle, the Moon and the Earth, as well as three stars in the shape of an L, the Roman numeral for 50, Parmitano said.
As was the case 50 years ago, the Soyuz MS-13 patch does not include the astronauts' names because their achievements, like those of the Apollo 11, belong to all of humanity, the Italian flight engineer said.
The trip to the ISS marks the American astronaut's first space flight, while it is Italian's second mission and the Russian cosmonaut's third.
Parmitano and Skvortsov will remain at the ISS until Feb. 6, 2020, while Morgan will take up residence there until April 1 of next year.
The crew will join a group that has been at the ISS since March: Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague.
During their stay, the new crew members will perform a spacewalk and carry out a broad range of experiments.
In what will be the most important experiment for the Russian cosmonauts, they will receive the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft carrying the humanoid robot FEDOR instead of a human crew.
Skvortsov and Ovchinin will test the robot's ability to complete missions on future "next-generation" space transport vehicles.
The Cosmonaut Training Center has thus far denied that the robot will carry out any extra-vehicular activity.
Separately, the director of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, on Saturday congratulated his NASA counterpart for the Apollo 11 mission that launched on July 16, 1969, with three crew members.
Four days later, two of them - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin - became the first human beings to set foot on the surface of the Moon. EFE-EPA