Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Space tourist blasts off to ISS

The Soyuz launch went entirely according to plan

A Russian Soyuz rocket has blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome to ferry a three-member crew to the International Space Station (ISS).

Among them is US billionaire Charles Simonyi, aged 60, who is the first space tourist to make the trip twice.

The software tycoon, who has paid $35m (£24m) for his trip, will be the last tourist for the foreseeable future.

During his 13-day mission, he will help with research projects and take part in live broadcasts with schools.

'Crowded' ISS

Expedition 19 to the ISS, which also includes Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and US astronaut Michael Barratt, lifted off on schedule at Baikonur.

US space tourist Charles Simonyi
Mr Simonyi will help astronauts with research projects

Mr Padalka and Mr Barratt will form part of a new six-member crew aboard the ISS.

Until now only three astronauts lived on the station at any one time.

Doubling the number will allow more scientific research to be carried out, but it will also mean there will be less room for visitors.

Mr Simonyi said the $35m he had paid for the flight was his contribution to the exploration of space.

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