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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Lift-off for woman space tourist
Anousheh Ansari
Ms Ansari replaced a Japanese businessman on the trip

The first woman space tourist has blasted off on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

The mission is carrying Iranian-born businesswoman, Anousheh Ansari, along with a fresh crew for the International Space Station (ISS).

Ms Ansari, a 40-year-old US citizen, is thought to have paid at least $20m (10.6m) for the mission.

Lift-off took place at 1010 local time (0410 GMT), with the Soyuz successfully entering orbit soon after.

The mission is expected to reach the ISS on Wednesday.

The Atlantis shuttle, which undocked from the ISS on Sunday to make way for the Soyuz capsule, is expected to land back on Earth on Wednesday.

The US space agency (Nasa) played down an incident on the station on Monday in which crewmembers reported smelling a foul odour.

'Fragile Earth'

Ms Ansari is accompanying Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and US astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who will join German astronaut Thomas Reiter on the station. They represent Expedition 14. Ms Ansari is the fourth space tourist after Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen.

Ahead of lift-off, Ms Ansari said she was an ambassador for attracting private investment into space programmes.

Soyuz (Getty Images)
The Soyuz lifts off into a blue sky
Ms Ansari, who made her fortune in telecoms, also said the trip would put the planet into perspective.

"You'll see how small and how fragile the Earth is compared to the rest of the Universe. It will give us a better sense of responsibility."

On the ISS, Ms Ansari will carry out experiments on back pain for the European Space Agency (Esa).

Ms Ansari replaced Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto, who dropped out due to unspecified medical reasons.

Cosmonaut Tyurin said Ms Ansari had been "very professional" in her training.

Ms Ansari will return on 28 September with two other space station occupants.

The returning Atlantis crew installed two massive solar wings on the ISS.

The current space station crew reported an unpleasant odour on the platform on Monday. Nasa said the smell was an irritant, potassium hydroxide, found to be leaking from an oxygen vent.

The incident was not "life threatening", an agency spokeman added.

Anousheh Ansari: A passion for space travel
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21 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
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06 May 01 |  Science/Nature

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