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Russian, American two-man crew blasts off to ISS

Friday, April 21, 2017

Baikonur (Kazakhstan): A Russian and an American blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today, the first two-person launch to the International Space Station in over a decade.

The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft carrying veteran Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA rookie Jack Fischer shot into the sky in bright conditions at 0713 GMT.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said the launch had been successful and that the crew was expected to arrive at the ISS at 1323 GMT.

Manned launches to the ISS usually involve three crew members.

But Russian space agency Roscosmos announced last year that in the near future only two cosmonauts would be on board the ISS rather than three as has been the case in recent times.

The agency explained it is seeking to cut costs on supply missions prior to the installation of a new module to expand the Russian section of the orbital lab at the end of 2017 or in early 2018.

Another Russian-American duo, Yuri Malenchenko and Edward Lu, undertook the last two-man mission to the ISS, in April 2003.

Yurchikhin and Fischer are set to complete a five-month mission at the station and should join three astronauts, including NASA's Peggy Whitson, on the orbital laboratory.

In an emotional interview with NASA TV, Fischer, a 43- year-old former US air force pilot, said he would be "thinking about Dad" as he enters orbit.

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