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Christmas cosmonauts set out safely for ISS

Along with ESA and NASA astronauts

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Soyuz TMA-03M blasted off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 13.16pm GMT today without a hitch, carrying the next three crew members for the ISS.

Soyuz TMA-03M lift off

Soyuz TMA-03M lift off. Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency's Andre Kuipers, NASA's Don Pettit and Roscosmos' Oleg Kononenko launched to fill out the full complement of crew for Expedition 30 aboard the International Space Station.

The spacecraft will now orbit the Earth 35 times, performing three major engine burns as it goes, in order to adjust its trajectory to meet the ISS on Friday at 13.43 GMT.

The docking on Friday will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

The three 'nauts will join the US' Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who have been living on the station since November.

All six expedition members will be there to greet the first ever commercial resupply from the US, when Elon Musk's SpaceX Dragon ship sets out for the ISS in February.

There'll also be time for Kononenko and Shkaplerov to carry out external assembly and maintenance on the station during a six-hour spacewalk.

Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin are due back in March, and the second half of the crew will return to Earth in May. ®

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