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Russia-US crew and tourist blast off
Updated: 2005-10-01 16:34

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - A Russia-U.S. two-man crew and the world's third space tourist blasted off from Earth on Saturday, bound for orbit and the International Space Station.

Russia-US crew and tourist blast off
A Russian Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft, with the ISS crew of U.S. space tourist Gregory Olsen, astronaut William McArthur of the U.S. and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev of Russia, blasts off from the launching pad at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan October 1, 2005. [Reuters]
The cigar-shaped Soyuz rocket climbed into a blue morning sky from the barren steppe of Central Asia, arcing higher and higher until only a ball of flame could be seen.

"It was wonderful. It was magnificent. It was beautiful," Michael Griffin, the head of U.S. space agency NASA, told Reuters at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.

On board the Russian spacecraft were U.S. Commander William McArthur, Russian Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev, and American entrepreneur and scientist Gregory Olsen, who is due to spend about a week in orbit. The crew face a daunting 6-month stint.

Olsen, rich enough to afford a reported $20 million ticket, will spend his time in space conducting experiments. He then hitches a ride back to Earth with the outgoing U.S.-Russian crew.

"He's doing much more in space than simply looking out of the window," said Eric Anderson, chief executive of Space Adventures, the company which arranged the trip.

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