|SLUG: 2-268664 International Space Station (L) CQ||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
TITLE=INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (L) CQ
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INTRO: A joint Russian-American crew lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is on its way to a rendezvous with the International Space Station. As Larry James reports from Moscow the mission heralds a new era in the history of space exploration.
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The giant gray and white Soyuz rocket lifted off from Launch Pad One, the same site where Yuri Gagarin made the first manned flight 39-years ago.
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The liftoff to the International Space Station sets the stage for permanent human presence in space.
Once the crew members enter the space station on Thursday, they will remain on board until a replacement crew arrives in February of next year. Their first jobs will be firing up the vehicle's onboard computers and making systems in all three of the craft's modules, the Zvezda, Zarya and Unity, operational. Over the course of the next several months the crew is scheduled to conduct a series of medical, biological and technical experiments.
The crew is made up of mission commander William Shepherd of the United States and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalyov and Yury Gedzenko, both very experienced space flight veterans who have logged considerable time aboard the Russian Mir space station.
The crew has been training for more than five-years and has endured more than its share of frustrations, including a two-year delay getting the Russian modules built and launched. Those involved in the project say they understand what happens on this and subsequent missions to the space station will set the tone for the future of space exploration for years to come.
The 60-billion dollar International Space Station project is supported by 16 countries, led by the United States and Russia. It is considered the largest technological operation ever undertaken. The U-S space agency NASA hopes to finish building the space station by 2006 and expects to keep it operational until 2016 at least. (SIGNED)