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20 April 2017, 07:20 | Justin Tyler
Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA's Jack Fischer, a first-time astronaut, blasted off for the International Space Station on Thursday from a Russian-run launch facility in Kazakhstan.
During Expeditions 51 and 52, Fischer and Yurchikhin will help with hundreds of experiments and oversee the arrival and departure of Russian and USA visiting vehicles - the first of which, Orbital ATK's S.S. John Glenn Cygnus cargo freighter, is set to berth at the space station on Saturday (April 22).
Fischer and Yurchikhin had been due to launch in March, but officials with the Russian space agency wanted to see the Soyuz rocket fly safely again before putting crew on it. This frees up two Soyuz seats a year.
Novitskiy and Pesquet will remain aboard the station until early June.
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A camera in the Soyuz crew module shows commander Yurchikhin, left, and Fisher, right during the climb to space. With a combined 537 days in orbit, he is one of the world's most experienced space fliers.
While it is Yurchikin's fifth mission to the space station, Fischer is on his first. The new avionics box is arriving aboard Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft on Saturday, April 22. On that day, Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, will have spent 535 days in space, more time than any other American astronaut. Jeffrey Williams now holds the record. During a six-and-a-half hour excursion, they will replace an external computer, install a high-definition camera on the station's power truss, attach micrometeoroid shielding to a docking port and help engineers troubleshoot cooling issues with a high-energy physics experiment.
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