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Russian Cargo Ship Brings Supplies to Space Station - 2003-08-29

A Russian cargo ship has blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying fresh supplies for the two-man crew at the International Space Station.

The Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress cargo vessel lifted off from the Kazakhstan cosmodrom at dawn.

The space vessel is loaded with more than 2.5 tons of cargo, including water, food and fuel. Besides traditional supplies, the ship is also carrying mobile satellite telephones for the crew.

The phones were added to the supplies after an incident in May, in which two previous crew members were out of touch for hours, after experiencing a steep, off-course landing. The satellite phones are intended to help the crew to keep in touch when on-board communications fail.

With the U.S. space shuttle grounded, Russian space craft provide the sole link to the station and its crew.

U.S. space agency officials halted space shuttle launches after Columbia disintegrated on the return trip to Earth last February, killing all seven crew members. NASA officials estimate the earliest the shuttle could fly again would be next spring.

The current crew at the orbiting outpost consists of U.S. astronaut Edward Lu and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malachenko.

Earlier this month, Mr. Malachenko became the first person to be married in space in a link-up with his bride at the Houston control center.

Russian space officials, who were not very happy with the wedding, now require cosmonauts to sign a contract agreeing not to get married during space flights.