NASA Flight Engineer Mike Barratt, together with Russian commander Gennady Padalka and space tourist Charles Simonyi are now safely in orbit and will dock with the International Space Station in two days.
Watching the launch live was intense - I've never actually known someone personally who has sat atop a giant controlled explosion before and I swear I didn't breathe for about two minutes before and after the actual 'lighting of the candle'. I can't even imagine what it was like for the astronauts' famillies.
One special thing about Soyuz launches is that there is a live video feed from inside the cabin, so you can watch the cosmonauts and astronauts as they're experiencing the launch. The photo at right is a screen shot I took of the NASA TV coverage, showing Padalky on the left and Barratt on the right. Simonyi is off camera to the bottom.
Watch or download a recording of the NASA TV coverage of the launch here; live in-cabin views begin at 2:38; the stage separations at 3:10, 5:58 and especially 9:59 are pretty exciting as you can see the physical jolt they experience as they suddenly decelerate with loss of the previous stage. I also like how Padalka uses a stick to throw switches during high g-loads (sometimes simple solutions are the best) and occassionally pokes the stuffed toy he has hanging above him in the cabin.