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Three new 'nauts head off to ISS

Expedition 25 mating expected Saturday night

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexander Kaleri, along with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, blasted off last night from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome ahead of a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.

The Soyuz launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Pic: NASATheir Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft lifted off at 23:10 GMT, and is expected to dock with the orbiting outpost on Saturday night.

The trio will be greeted by fellow Expedition 25 members commander Doug Wheelock and flight engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Shannon Walker, who've been aboard the ISS since 17 June.

Flight engineer Skripochka is a space rookie. Fellow engineer Kaleri is a four-flight vet who previously visited the ISS as an Expedition 8 crew member from October 2003 to April 2004.

Scott J Kelly commanded space shuttle Endeavour's STS-118 mission to the station in August 2007, having previously piloted the 1999 STS-103 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA has more on the Expedition 25 'nauts here.

Back on Earth, meanwhile, space shuttle Discovery is being prepped for its slated 1 November launch on STS-133 to the ISS.

The spacecraft is sitting on Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, where teams are poised to load its Permanent Multipurpose Module payload.

NASA explains: "The module, which will remain attached to the station after Discovery leaves, is loaded with spare equipment, experiments, supplies and Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot to go into space." ®

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