American, Russian arrive at space station

China EU keen to push message of free trade engagement

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin lifted off from Kazakhstan on Thursday, bound for the International Space Station.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying USA astronaut Jack Fischer, 43, and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, 58, lifted off at 1:13 p.m. local time/3:13 a.m. EDT (0713 GMT) with a rare empty third seat. They floated into the station two hours after the docking.

A scaled-down, two-man US-Russian crew arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday, six hours after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

Ms Whitson, a station commander, is going to become the United States astronaut who has spent the most cumulative time in space - surpassing the 534 days served by Jeff Williams.

Fischer's wife thanked him for what she said was "the most unexpected bouquet of flowers" that she received as he was launching into space.

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"I learnt from the master".

She will be occupying the third seat on the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft when Mr Yurchikhin and Mr Fischer return to Earth in September.

She is expected to receive a congratulatory phone call on Monday from U.S. President Donald Trump, NASA said on Wednesday. On that day, Whitson, the first woman to command the International Space Station, will have spent 535 days in space, more time than any other American astronaut. Jeffrey Williams now holds the record.

The previous three flights of the Soyuz MS spacecraft were held under a two-day scheme as they were carried out in the testing mode.

Fischer and Yurchikhin will spend more than four months aboard the orbiting space station before also returning to Earth in September.

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