(Image: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images)

Icy temperatures didn’t stop the long-awaited launch of the first crewed Russian Soyuz rocket since all such missions were suspended following the crash of a cargo module in August.

The rocket took off at 4:14 am GMT from the snowy Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying two Russians and one American to relieve the current ISS crew.

With the US shuttle fleet now retired, NASA relies totally on Soyuz rockets to deliver fresh crew and supplies to the station. And, with the current ISS crew set to return to Earth on 21 November, there had been fears that the station would be left uncrewed for the first time.

With the success of today’s launch, Soyuz rockets are set to resume full-time service ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS. Despite the technology being almost half a century old, Soyuz looks likely to continue being the ISS’s sole life-support system for at least the next several years.