A Russian rocket blasted off from the Russian Bakinour space facility in Kazakhstan early Friday, headed for the International Space Station.  It is set to dock there early Sunday.

The three-man crew, including Russian commander Sergei Krikalev and American astronaut John Phillips, will remain on the station for six months.  Also aboard, for a 10-day stay, is European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittorio from Italy.

One of the main tasks of the six-month mission is to observe the condition of the U.S. shuttle Discovery as it approaches the ISS and conduct a photo survey of the spacecraft's new insulating tiles.

The scheduled May or June launch of Discovery will be the first since the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003, killing all seven U.S. astronauts aboard.

Some information for this story provided by AP and AFP.