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Space capsule with 3 astronauts blasts off to orbiting lab

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BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan  — A Soyuz space capsule successfully blasted off for the International Space Station on Friday, carrying an American astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut and an Italian astronaut.

NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Russia’s Sergei Ryazansky and Italy’s Paolo Nespoli lifted off from the Russia-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan shortly after sunset at 21:41 p.m. on Friday (1541 GMT, 11:41 a.m. EDT). They will travel six hours before docking at the space station.

The three will join NASA’s Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson as well as the veteran Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

Bresnik previously logged 10 days in space when he flew on a mission in 2009, performing two spacewalks. Russia’s Ryazansky is the crew’s most experience astronaut with 160 days in space under his belt.

The incoming crew will contribute to more than 250 experiments conducted at the orbiting lab in fields such as biology, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Flight Engineer Whitson earlier this week was doing research for a cancer study that may help develop more effective treatments for cancer patients, NASA reported.