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US-Russian Crew to Blast Off Friday for Space Station

From left: American NASA astronaut John Phillips, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, and Italian ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori
A U.S.-Russian crew is preparing to blast off Friday from Kazakhstan for the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and American astronaut John Phillips are to spend six months in orbit.

They are to conduct experiments and also welcome a U.S. space shuttle making the first American space flight since the shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it returned to earth in 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

At a news conference Thursday in Kazakhstan, Cosmonaut Krikalev said the renewal of U.S. space flights will be emotional, but that the crew will celebrate on arrival at the station.

Italian Roberto Vittori, flying for the European Space Agency, also will go up with the crew Friday, but he will return eight days later with the outgoing two-man space crew composed of Russian Salizhan Sharipov and American Leroy Chiao.

Mr. Vittori noted he is taking Italian food and wine to make the crew's stay in space more pleasant.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.