A Russian Soyuz spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying a three-man crew that includes a businessman from New Jersey. Gregory Olsen is the third so-called space tourist to pay for a week-long stay on the International Space Station.
Gregory Olsen confessed to being a bit nervous as he prepared to fly into space after months of rigorous training at Russia's Star City space facility near Moscow.
The 59-year-old joined fellow American astronaut Bill McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev for the flight from the Baikonus Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The three men are due to rendezvous with the ISS on Monday.
Mr. Olsen is a scientist and electrical engineer who runs a firm in Princeton, New Jersey that makes electronic sensors for military and civilian use.
He says he plans to test some of this equipment and conduct other experiments during his eight-day stay on the ISS.
"I have a spectrometer that was designed by the University of Virginia, going up," he said. "We will use it to look at moisture on the earth, for agricultural areas, and also clouds. I'm also doing three medical experiments for the European Space Agency."
Some refer to Mr. Olsen as the world's third paying space tourist, following American Dennis Tito in 2001 and South African Mark Shuttleworth in 2002.
Mr. Olsen paid $20 million for the trip, but says that someday space flight should be as routine as air travel is today.
He says he is confident that all will go well.
"I don't view it as a risk at all, it's a very exciting experience to undergo," he said.
Mr. Olsen is scheduled to return to earth on October 11 with Russian Sergei Krikalyov and American John Phillips, who have spent the last six months on the station.