Yuri Gagarin back in space as Russian rocket blasts off painted with his face

Yuri Gagarin back in space as Russian rocket blasts off painted with his face

"They're feeling very good. They're very happy," said NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, who watched the launch from the viewing platform. Stott has been on two space flights, including the final mission of Space Shuttle Discovery, which landed March 9.

Live footage on NASA TV showed that a small stuffed dog hanging in front of the crew had begun to float, an indication of the weightlessness of space. The toy dog had been given to the Russian commander, Alexander Samokutyayev, by his daughter.

Mike Suffredini, head of NASA's International Space Station program, said the launch went off completely as planned.

"It was perfect, quite appropriate for the anniversary," he said.

The launch from Russia's cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was the first for Samokutyayev and Andrei Borisenko.

They are to travel for two days before joining three other astronauts already aboard the orbiting space laboratory: Russia's Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA astronaut Catherine...
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