BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan -- American millionaire scientist Gregory Olsen and a US-Russian crew hurtled toward the international space station yesterday on a Soyuz craft in a journey that Olsen's family said was motivated by a devotion to science.
Relatives and friends of Olsen, and of astronaut William McArthur and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, gasped as the Russian craft lifted off in a burst of flame from the Baikonur cosmodrome.
The crew reported that all was well aboard the Soyuz TMA-7 capsule, which will rendezvous tomorrow with the station floating above 250 miles above Earth.
McArthur and Tokarev are replacing Russian Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips, who will return to Earth on Oct. 11, along with Olsen, the 60-year-old founder of an infrared-camera maker based in Princeton, N.J. He reportedly paid $20 million for a seat on the Expedition 12 flight.
Olsen's daughter, Krista Dibsie, 31, videotaped the launch. ''There goes Dad," she said quietly, tears rolling down her cheeks. ''Love ya, Dad."
''Now I'm nervous for him," she said. ''I wasn't before, but now he's up there, and, gosh, he's out of this world. I know that's a corny thing to say, but I can't believe it."
Her father, who holds advanced degrees in physics and materials science, has defended his presence in the capsule as a necessary step in the evolution of space travel.
''I would hope that my flight would help, if just to make space flight more routine," Olsen said in a telephone interview on the eve of the flight.