Christmas gifts blasts off for space station

An unmanned &to=' target=_blank>Russian cargo ship carrying supplies and Christmas gifts for the crew of the international space station blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday, a Russian space agency spokesman said.

The Progress M-55 was launched at 21:39 p.m. (1839 GMT) and was expected to enter orbit about nine minutes later after jettisoning three booster sections, said a duty officer with the Federal Space Agency. The officer said he was not authorized to give his name.

In addition to some 2.5 metric tons (2.8 U.S. tons) of food, water, books, DVDs and scientific equipment, the ship is also bringing cosmonaut Valery Tokarev and astronaut William McArthur chocolates, two red holiday caps and gifts from their families.

The ship is expected to dock with the station orbiting at about 350 kilometers (220 miles) above the Earth late Friday.

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