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Trio Liftoff From Kazakhstan, Head for Space Station


Members of the International Space Station expedition 54/55, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, center, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, right, and Norishige Kanai, left of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency during the send-off ceremony at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Dec. 17, 2017.

A trio of U.S. and Japanese astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut blasted off from Kazakhstan on Sunday for a two-day trip to the International Space Station, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and flight engineers Norishige Kanai of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Scott Tingle of NASA lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1:21 p.m. local time (0721 GMT/0221 EST).

The crew will gradually approach the station, which orbits about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, for two days before docking.

Shkaplerov, Kanai and Tingle will join Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, who have been aboard the orbital outpost since September.

Onboard cameras showed crew members making thumbs-up gestures after the liftoff. Also visible was a stuffed dog toy chosen by Shkaplerov’s daughter to be the spacecraft’s zero-gravity indicator.

Soyuz was safely in orbit about 10 minutes after the launch.

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