BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan A Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from Russia s base at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at sunrise Friday, launching two astronauts and a cosmonaut strapped into a crammed space capsule on a two-day journey to the international space station.
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and American John Phillips were headed for a six-month stay on the ISS, while their colleague from the European Space Agency, Italian Roberto Vittori, was due to return to Earth in 10 days with the current station crew.
Russian Salizhan Sharipov and American Leroy Chiao have been on the orbiting lab since October.
Jets of fire and billows of smoke accompanied the liftoff, which was being monitored at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow. The three-stage rocket system was to bring the Soyuz to a speed of 13,420 mph within 7 minutes of the launch.
A main task for the new crew will be welcoming a U.S. space shuttle to the station after a two-year absence.
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