A Russian Soyuz rocket has blasted off carrying Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Michael Barrett, and with space tourist Charles Simonyi on board.
The blast-off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Khzakhstan was watched by the crew members’ friends and relatives. Simonyi is an American software billionaire making an historic second civilian trip into space. He said the 28 million euros he paid for the flight was his contribution to the exploration of space. Padalka and Barratt will form part of a new six-member crew aboard the International Space Station. 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.