On Thursday, at 10:26 a.m. Moscow time, the Russian Soyuz TM-34 spaceship was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) with a short-term expedition on-board. This information was unfolded by the Russian Mission Control Centre. The crew of the spaceship includes crew leader Colonel Yuri Gidzenko, a Hero of Russia, fight engineer Roberto Vittori, an Italian astronaut from the European Space agency, and space tourist number two Mark Shuttleworth, a South African businessman. The primary objective of the mission is to deliver to the ISS a new rescue ship, which will replace the Soyuz TM-33 vehicle whose service life has expired. In addition, the crew, including the 28-year old space tourist, will conduct a number of scientific experiments. In particular, Mark Shuttleworth will shoot a number of photo images of his country and the whole of Africa and conduct a number of experiments relating to the genetic engineering. According to Mission Control officials, the particular feature of this mission is that it will be the first time that a foreign astronaut, Roberto Vittori, fulfils the flight engineer's duties at a Russian spaceship. He is responsible for tracking the trajectory. When approaching the ISS, his task is, if necessary, to switch from the automatic to manual mode and manually perform the docking. Such tasks used to be set only to Russian cosmonauts. Neither Shuttleworth, nor Vittori have ever been to space before. But, the Italian astronaut has completed special training courses both in Houston, the United States, and in the Russian Space Centre - Zvyozdny (Star town) in the Moscow region. Mission Control experts believe that the crew will successfully accomplish its mission because its leader is an experienced Russian cosmonaut who has already been to space twice. He visited both the Russian Mir space station and the ISS as a member of the 1st long-term expedition. "The mission is expected to take approximately 10 days, the crew are scheduled to land in Kazakhstan on May 5th," Mission Control officials reported.
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