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Trio of astronauts blast off to international space station

June 6, 2018
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The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-09 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, and German astronaut Alexander Gerst. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — A trio of astronauts from Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency blasted off Wednesday for a mission on the International Space Station.

A Russian spacecraft carrying Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA, Sergey Prokopyev of Russian space agency Roscosmos and the ESA’s Alexander Gerst, from Germany, lifted off as scheduled from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket at 1612 local time (1112 GMT) Wednesday.

The Soyuz MS-09 ship has successfully entered a designated orbit and is set to dock at the space outpost Friday.

The three astronauts will join Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, who are currently on the station. The mission program includes 250 experiments in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology.

Roscosmos said its chief Dmitry Rogozin met at Baikonur with U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, who attended the launch.

The agency said in a statement that the continuing cooperation in space could help repair the strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have plummeted to post-Cold War lows over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

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