New crew takes off into space

A new crew blasted off for the International Space Station on Thursday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft that had been twice delayed due to technical problems. The launch, however, was flawless and on time.

US astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonauts Salizhan Sharipov and Yuri Shargin - none of whom have flown a Soyuz before - rocketed into space at 0406 British Summer Time (BST) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

&to=' target=_blank>The spacecraft is set to dock with the station on Saturday. Incoming crew members Chiao and Sharipov will then spend about a week learning the station's idiosyncrasies from its current residents, while Shargin conducts scientific experiments, reports New Scientist.

"The launch was O.K., right on schedule" said a spokesman for mission control in Moscow after the rocket carrying a Soyuz TMA-5 capsule blasted off at 7:06 a.m. Moscow time.

"Soyuz is firmly in orbit," said an announcer at the launch site to applause from an audience including friends and relatives of the crew.

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