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Russian, U.S., Italian Troika Lift Off For Space Station On Apollo Anniversary

NASA's Andrew Morgan, cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov, and Italian Luca Parmitano prior to their July 20 launch.

A trio of Russian, American, and Italian astronauts have docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in low-Earth orbit after blasting off earlier in the day in a Russian spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov, NASA's Andrew Morgan, and Luca Parmitano spent about six hours and 20 minutes en route to the ISS.

Russian space agency Roskosmos said every stage had "proceeded according to plan," and NASA TV said it had been a "textbook launch."

The latest mission to the two-decades-old space-based laboratory -- a collaboration among the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada, and Japan -- comes as the United States celebrates the 50th anniversary of its pioneering Apollo 11 mission that put the first human beings on the moon.

Roskosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin used the anniversary to congratulate his U.S. counterpart, NASA head Jim Bridenstine, in an open message in which he also noted the indebtedness to NASA of the Soyuz-Apollo project, a U.S.-Soviet space flight in 1975 that came to symbolize the thaw during a period of detente.

The group was welcomed aboard ISS by two NASA astronauts, Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and Roskosmos's Aleksei Ovchinin.

In a year that the Apollo missions have returned to the spotlight, U.S. President Donald Trump has set a goal of the U.S. space program getting astronauts back on the moon by 2024.

Vice President Mike Pence pulled back the curtain on a new NASA spacecraft during Apollo 11 anniversary celebrations on July 20, saying the new Orion craft would be launched by the Artemis 1 lunar mission under the U.S.'s planned Space Launch System for deep-space exploration.

Based on reporting by AFP, TASS, and AP