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Russians, American Reach ISS Aboard Spacecraft 'Gagarin'


The Soyuz spacecraft blasts off to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 9.

A Russian spacecraft carrying two Russians and an American has docked with the International Space Station (ISS) after a flight honoring the anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to reach space 60 years ago next week.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark T Vande Hei blasted off aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The capsule docked at the ISS after a journey that lasted just over three hours.

Four Americans, two Russians, and a Japanese national are currently manning the orbiting laboratory.

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Three of them being relieved by the incoming trio will return to Earth in about a week's time.

The next planned mission to the ISS is a rocket owned by the private U.S. company SpaceX that is scheduled to set out late this month for the ISS from Florida.

The latest launch came three days ahead of the anniversary of Gagarin's historic flight on April 12, 1961. The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that carried the trio was named after the legendary cosmonaut.

Gagarin orbited the Earth once after taking off from the same Kazakh facility at the height of the U.S.-Soviet space race.

Russia's government this month extended a space cooperation agreement with the United States until 2030, one of the few remaining partnerships between Moscow and Washington amid frosty relations.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved and signed the extension on April 3.

The original cooperation agreement, signed in 1992 and extended four times previously, laid the groundwork for wide-ranging, space-related projects and research between NASA and Roskosmos.

Based on reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters