Published: Jun 16, 2010 11:05 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 16, 2010 8:05 AM EDT

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) - A Russian rocket carrying a

three-person U.S.-Russian crew to the international space station

has blasted off successfully from Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz TMA-19, launched early Wednesday local time, is

carrying U.S. astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker and

Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin to the international orbiting laboratory

for a mission lasting about six months.

The trio will be onboard the space station to see the final

shuttle - the Endeavour - depart from its last planned mission to

the lab in November before the fleet is finally retired.

With the shuttle being phased out, the venerable Soyuz rocket

will take over as the only means by which astronauts will be able

to travel to the space station.