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Russian, US astronauts launch to International Space Station

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NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonauts prepare for launch to space station

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov took off at just before 2 AM EDT, and docked with the ISS at 4:48 AM EDT - three hours and two minutes after liftoff.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos joined Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 7:07 a.m. EDT. Essentially, once he begins to float, the crew will know they've reached space.

A NASA TV commentator said everything was normal, citing communications between Russian mission control and the crew, while Roscosmos said the capsule had successfully gone into orbit.

The U.S. space agency in 2014 contracted Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing Co to build competing space capsules in an effort to reclaim NASA's launch independence.

There are now six crew members staffing the ISS, including cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, as well as NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy who were already on the station.

Speaking at a pre-launch press conference on Tuesday, Rubins did not directly reference the SpaceX flight when asked how she felt to be on board during a new era in spaceflight.

"We have a very strict quarantine, nearly from March by my perception", said Rubins, a microbiologist who researched the deadly Ebola virus before she began training as an astronaut. "We made PCR tests twice and we also made three times antigen fast tests".

"We're planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA", Rubins said. The small leak hasn't posed any immediate danger to the crew. "We will also take with us additional improved hermetic material which will allow to fix the leak". The delay is meant to give SpaceX more time to conduct tests and review data from an aborted Falcon 9 launch earlier this month.

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