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Two-man space crew (and small toy dog) blasts off for the ISS

21 April 2017, 12:41 | Kevin Scott

Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer give a “thumbs up” in front of the Soyuz rocket. Source NASA Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center Andrey Shelepin

NASA_Roskosmos

The rookie astronaut will be sharing the station with two seasoned veterans, a Russian cosmonaut on his second flight and a first-time French flier.

But Russian space agency Roscosmos announced a year ago that only two cosmonauts would travel to the ISS this time as it cuts costs before the installation of a new module to expand the Russian section of the orbital lab at the end of 2017 or in early 2018.

A day before the launch, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin said that his vision of the spacecraft differs from that of NASA astronaut Jack Fischer. They reached orbit about nine minutes later, a moment illustrated when a small white stuffed dog hanging from a string in the capsule began to float.

They will travel six hours before docking at the space station. The two new crewmembers' Soyuz should dock at the station at 9:23 a.m. EDT (1323 GMT), NASA officials said in the same statement.

Fischer and Yurchikhin join a crew commanded by NASA's Peggy Whitson.

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"I learnt from the master". She's due to return to Earth in September. Station commander Peggy Whitson, 57, in the midst of her third long-duration mission, is due on Monday to beat the 534-day record for cumulative time spent in space by a USA astronaut.

She is expected to receive a congratulatory phone call on Monday from US President Donald Trump, NASA said on Wednesday. Jeffrey Williams now holds the 534-day record.

At 57, Ms Whitson also is the oldest woman in space.

It's the fifth mission to the space station for Yurchikhin, but the first for Fischer, who he says there is one aspect of space station life that you can't train for on Earth: using a zero-gravity toilet.



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