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US, Russian duo blasts off for ISS

dpa logodpa 20/04/2017

A Soyuz space capsule carrying an American and a Russian blasts off for the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA's Jack Fischer, a first-time astronaut, have blasted off for the International Space Station from a Russian-run launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The duo was expected to reach the station in their Russian-designed Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft about six hours after Thursday's launch.

Two days later, a Cygnus cargo ship is scheduled to arrive at the space station, particularly to supply the facility's laboratory.

"Cygnus will deliver experiments supporting research into cancer-fighting drugs, semiconductor crystal growth and atmospheric re-entry conditions," NASA said in a statement.

In a NASA interview before the launch, Fischer said he suspects the biggest challenge he faces in his first voyage into space will be learning how to use the station's zero-gravity toilet.

"It's all about suction, it's really difficult," he said . "You just can't train for that on the ground, so I approach my space-toilet activities with respect, preparation and a healthy dose of sheer terror."

The rookie astronaut will be sharing the station with two seasoned veterans.

Soyuz crewmate Yurchikhin has made four previous spaceflights. 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 US astronaut.

She is expected to receive a congratulatory phone call on Monday from US President Donald Trump, NASA said.

Whitson, who flew to the station in November along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, will remain aboard with Fischer and Yurchikhin until September.

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