Russia launches manned spacecraft

Russia launched a spacecraft with three astronauts onboard on way to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan early Tuesday.

The Soyuz TMA-21 – named after the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – was scheduled to dock with the ISS at 3.18 a.m. Moscow time April 7 (2318 GMT April 6), Xinhua reported.

The spacecraft atop a Soyuz-FG carrier rocket blasted off at 2.18 a.m. with Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrei Borisenko and US astronaut Ronald Garn.

Russian federal space agency Roscosmos said the three new crew members were expected to spend 170 days in the ISS. During the period, they will receive two US space shuttles and three Russian Progress cargo ships, conduct a spacewalk and carry out over 40 experiments.

The launch was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the first flight into space carrying Gagarin in 1961.

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