New Station Crew Ready for Launch as Cygnus Races to Station


He will ride to space with NASA astronaut and first-time space flier Jack Fischer aboard the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, a pair of astronauts are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

The Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin is scheduled to blast off at 3:13 a.m. EDT (0713 GMT) from a pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the local time will be early afternoon at liftoff. About nine minutes into their voyage, the stuffed dog leaped into the air, then began to drift at the end of the string around its neck.

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US astronaut Jack Fischer, above, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station, ISS, wave near the rocket prior the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday, April 20, 2017.

About six hours later, they docked at the orbiting outpost.

Yurchikhin, 58, is a veteran cosmonaut making his fifth spaceflight with the Expedition 51 mission.

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Fischer and Yurchikhin join a crew commanded by NASA's Peggy Whitson. Fischer wrote in a Twitter post alongside a photo of him and Yurchikhin. "Fyodor told me I should be doing that", he said.

She is expected to receive a congratulatory phone call on Monday from U.S. President Donald Trump, NASA said on Wednesday. Jeffrey Williams now holds the 534-day record.

At 57, Whitson also is the oldest woman in space.

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Fischer and Yurchikhin will spend more than four months aboard the orbiting space station before also returning to Earth in September.