Astronauts to launch for ISS, seen live from Times Square

 NASA has announced that it will broadcast the next launch to the International Space Station live on Times Square's enormous Toshiba screen.

Diane Bondareff/AP
The next launch to the Space Station will be broadcast live on Times Square's bright and enormous Toshiba screen.

Looking for a space experience stippled with glitz and glitter, but lack the $75,000 needed to luxuriate aboard World Views’ planned mid-stratosphere-skimming capsule? Want to experience the thrill of a rocket blastoff, but missing the $250,000 to purchase a seat on Virgin Galactic’s coming sound-barrier-smashing spacecraft?

Well, consider this an alternative, free of charge: NASA has announced that it will broadcast the next launch to the International Space Station live on Times Square's enormous and bright Toshiba screen, just under the New Year’s Eve ball.

The launch is scheduled for Wednesday at 11:14 p.m. EST, but the screening will last from 10:15 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. The upcoming viewing will come about two months after space fans congregated in LED-lit Times Square to watch the launch of the lunar explorer LADEE mission, and more than a year after enthusiasts gathered there to see the Curiosity rover blast off toward Mars.

This time, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Russian astronaut Mikhail Tyurin, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will launch on the big screen from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstanin to the ISS. The team will join six astronauts already at the space station.

"The space station serves as a unique laboratory for researchers around the world, home to astronauts from multiple countries, and was built with international cooperation, so it's fitting to show the launch of the next crew in the most cosmopolitan city in the United States," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, in a NASA statement.

The trio will be riding in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, a detail that has rankled NASA and furnished a three-way tussle between private spaceflight companies for a NASA contract to replace Russia for the Earth to ISS transport job. 

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