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BAIKONUR - Agence France-Presse

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The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft blasts off from the Russian leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome on July 15.

The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft blasts off from the Russian leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome on July 15.

A Soyuz rocket blasted off with an international crew of three toward the International Space Station on Sunday in a mission testing the reliability of Russia’s crisis-prone space program.

NASA’s Sunita Williams and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and Yury Malenchenko of Russia started their journey on top of the Soyuz-FG under the open skies of the Kazakh steppe on schedule and without a hitch.

The trio gave big thumbs up after the needle-shaped craft pierced a thin layering of white clouds and safely reached orbit about nine minutes later.
 
“Goodbye Planet Earth for now! Woo Hoo!” Williams tweeted a few hours before the 305-tonne craft shook the ground with a violent orange explosion of booster rocket flames.
 
Russia’s Roscosmos space program chief Vladimir Popovkin told reporters that he spoke briefly to the crew members a few minutes into their journey and “They feel fine. I have no doubts that everything will go well.” 

Live footage from inside the Soyuz TMA-05M capsule that will dock to the ISS after a two-day journey showed a small doll in a red dress hanging before the three space travelers as a good luck charm as the rocket gathered pace.

July/16/2012

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