Soyuz space capsule carrying American, Russian blasts off

The capsule will be carried on a Russian Soyuz rocket, set to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, early on Thursday morning.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying Jack Fischer, 43, and Fyodor Yurchikhin, 58, lifted off with a rare empty third seat with Russia scaling back space station staffing until its long-delayed science laboratory is flown to the orbiting outpost next year.

This is the first two-person launch to the ISS in more than a decade, with Russian Federation scaling back its space station staffing until a much-delayed science laboratory is flown to the $100bn (£78bn) space station next year.

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For Yurchikhin, this marks his fifth launch to space, having logged a total of 537 days on one space shuttle mission in 2002 and three long-duration missions on the International Space Station in 2007, 2010 and 2013. A few moments later, antennas and both two solar panels unfolded and locked in place.

The pair will travel on a six-hour course to the ISS and dock at the Poisk module. They'll be aboard the station for four and a half months.

Like their official patch, Fischer and Yurchikhin's unofficial patch also borrows from USA and Russian space history.

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Fischer and Yurchikhin will spend more than four months aboard the orbiting space station before also returning to Earth in September. It also protects the option for a contingency spacewalk if problems crop up on the USA segment of the station. She is the first female commander of the space station and NASA's most experienced astronaut. This frees up two Soyuz seats a year.

"The Apollo-Soyuz flight was a significant milestone in the relationship of the two countries", said Yurchikhin.

Crew members and supplies arrive at the ISS via transfer vehicles and space freighters. Watch the videos below to see the take off and the positioning of the rocket in space.

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Novitskiy and Pesquet will return to Earth on June 2 and Yurchikhin will take over as commander of Expedition 52. He also has eight space walks under his belt and is scheduled to make another jaunt into space during this mission to perform maintenance work and conduct some experiments. Soyuz MS-04 is the 50th Soyuz spacecraft launched to the ISS.


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