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Astronaut, Cosmonaut And Stuffed Dog Arrive At International Space Station

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasted off Thursday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

In case you ever find yourself hurtling into space, know this: When the little stuffed dog starts to float, that's when you've reached Earth's orbit.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin lifted off from Kazakhstan on Thursday, bound for the International Space Station. About nine minutes into their voyage, the stuffed dog leaped into the air, then began to drift at the end of the string around its neck. (The dog is the latest in an adorable tradition of stuffed animals in space.)

There was a rare extra seat in the Soyuz capsule; Reuters reports that Russia is scaling back its space station staffing as it prepares to prepares to send a laboratory to the ISS next year.

It's the fifth mission to the space station for Yurchikhin, but the first for Fischer, who he says there is one aspect of space station life that you can't train for on Earth: using a zero-gravity toilet.

"It's all about suction, it's really difficult," Fischer said in a NASA interview before launch. "You just can't train for that on the ground, so I approach my space-toilet activities with respect, preparation and a healthy dose of sheer terror."

Just six hours after launch, the pair docked at the space station. They were welcomed by Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy of Russia and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, as well as Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson of NASA, who on Monday will break the record for longest time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut. She's due to return to Earth in September.

On Saturday, NASA will livestream video of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft rendezvous and capture at the International Space Station. The cargo craft took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Tuesday.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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