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Russia launches three astronauts to ISS

The Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft blasts off from the Russian leased Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, on October 23, 2012. AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan: A Russian rocket carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut blasted off on Tuesday for the International Space Station.

Russia's Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin and NASA's Kevin Ford blasted off in a Soyuz TMA-06M space craft on schedule at 1051 GMT from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, an AFP correspondent said.

Russian state television showed live footage of the astronauts strapped into the cramped craft and reading instructions, with their mascot, a toy hippo with a "Russia" logo swinging above them.

The Soyuz spacecraft is due to dock with the ISS on Thursday at 1235 GMT. The crew will join NASA's Sunita Williams, Russia's Yuri Malenchenko and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide, who arrived in July and are due to leave in mid-November.

The trio had been set to blast off on October 15 but the lift-off was delayed due to the need to replace a piece of the on-board equipment. The astronauts are set to spend around 140 days on their mission.

The Russian cosmonauts are making their first journey into space, while flight engineer Ford flew to the ISS in 2009 on the US shuttle. He will take over command when Williams leaves in November.

 

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