NASA spokesperson Gary Johnson described the mission as "textbook launch and insertion into orbit" during the liftoff commentary. Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques, who arrived on the ISS Dec. 3 shortly before the announcement of the Soyuz MS-12 crew, will have the station to themselves after Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Alexander Gerst and Sergey Prokopyev depart the ISS Dec. 20.
The Soviet-designed Soyuz rocket is now the world's only lifeline to the ISS. That's when a rocket failure forced the Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to make an emergency landing.
Hague and Ovchinin were on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft that launched October 11 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Despite October's emergency landing, however, astronauts expressed continued confidence on the Soyuz.
"Risk is part of our profession", crew commander Oleg Kononenko told a news conference at Baikonur on Sunday, adding they "absolutely" trusted teams preparing them for the flight.
Anne McClain, a 39-year-old former military pilot, said the crew looked forward to going up. "We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board". Roscosmos has experienced a series of setbacks in the past couple of months, including a mysterious hole in one of the docked capsules in the ISS. The United States has been relying on its services since 2001 after the space shuttle program shut down. The report also revealed a corruption problem with an equivalent of billions of dollars "stolen" from the Russian space agency.
The three current inhabitants - Alexander Gerst of Germany, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of the United States and Sergey Prokopyev of Russian Federation - plan to return December 20 aboard a Soyuz module that has been docked to the station since June.
Hague, in post-flight interviews October 16, said he was interested in making another attempt to get to the ISS, but didn't know when that would happen.
In March 2019, the station will again return to a full complement of six crew members when they are joined for Expedition 59 by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.
The crew repeatedly denied being nervous about flying and insisted the fact that the two-man crew had safely returned to Earth despite the dramatic mishap had demonstrated the reliability of the rocket's safety mechanisms.