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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 April 2006, 04:58 GMT 05:58 UK
Brazilian pioneer docks in space
The Soyuz rocket docked with the International Space Station
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the first Brazilian into space has docked with the International Space Station two days after lift-off from Baikonur.

Lt Col Marcos Pontes will spend nine days on board, while a Russian and a US colleague accompanying him will stay for six months.

Col Pontes took with him a Brazilian flag and a football shirt - to help his team in the World Cup, he said.

His father, 84, was at the launch with other relatives and friends.

Mission controllers in Korolyov, outside of Moscow, broke into applause when confirmation arrived of the successful docking.

The Soyuz docked with the space station at 0419 GMT on Saturday morning.

Lt Col Pontes and his companions, cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and astronaut Jeffrey Williams, were due to spend 90 minutes carrying out routine safety inspections before leaving the launch module.

Space dream

Millions in Brazil watched Thursday's launch, with every successful step for the rocket and Lt Col Pontes likely to be warmly received at home.

Lt Col Marcos Pontes before his departure
Col Pontes had been in training for the flight since 1998
"I am very emotional," his wife Fatima said after the launch, with tears in her eyes. "I cannot even explain how I feel right now. I am very, very happy."

Many Brazilians are hoping the trip will give a crucial morale boost to the country's own space programme, the BBC's Tom Gibb reports from Sao Paulo.

The mission, which is costing Brazil about $10m (6m), comes less than three years after Brazil's space programme met with disaster when a rocket exploded on the launch pad.

The explosion of the first Brazilian rocket, built to take satellites into orbit, killed 21 people at the site in the north of the country.

However, there has also been some criticism that the cost of putting a man into space could have been used better elsewhere.

Thursday's flight was the fulfilment of a childhood dream for Col Pontes, our correspondent adds.

He has been training since 1998 for such a mission, which was originally to have been on a US space shuttle.

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