Soyuz space capsule carrying American, Russian blasts off


Photographers take pictures as the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft carrying the crew of Jack Fischer of the US and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russian Federation blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, April 20, 2017.

Yurchikhin, 58, has racked up 537 days in space over the course of four missions to the ISS, more than any USA astronaut but some way short of the 879 days logged by record-holding compatriot Gennady Padalka.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, 43, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, 58, lifted off at 1:13 p.m. local time/3:13 a.m. EDT with a rare empty third seat. The March 31, 2017 interview took place at a Soyuz spacecraft mockup on day two of the final qualification exams for the astronauts.

Soyuz crewmate Yurchikhin has made four previous spaceflights.

Novitskiy and Pesquet will remain aboard the station until early June. It also protects the option for a contingency spacewalk if problems crop up on the US segment of the station. He is the 550th person in history to fly into Earth orbit.

Fischer, whose nickname "2fish" came from his former Air Force squadron having another guy named Fischer (as in the Dr. Seuss book, "One Fish, Two Fish."), is on his first flight since being chosen as a NASA astronaut in 2009.

On Monday, President Trump and daughter Ivanka plan to call the station for a video conference with Whitson and Fischer to congratulate the station commander for setting a new space endurance record. Once they arrive at the station, they'll join the three astronauts already living in the orbiting lab and will become part of Expedition 51.

When she returns to Earth with Yurchikhin and Fischer on September 3, she will have logged 666 days in space during three missions, moving her up to eighth in the world, one spot behind Yurchikhin, who will have logged 672 days aloft over his five missions.

He also ventured outside the confines of the space station for four spacewalks.



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