MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) - Three new crewmembers on board a Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft successfully blasted off for the International Space Station on Wednesday, Russia's Mission Control said.
The new crew, which lifted off earlier on Wednesday from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, consists of expedition commander U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams, Russian flight engineer Maxim Surayev, and space tourist Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, founder of the Cirque du Soleil. The spacecraft should dock with the ISS on Friday.
The mission's crewmembers have taken a stuffed toy lion cub with them as a good luck charm.
"The animal is very dear to me...I have two small daughters who took turns clutching it while they slept so that while we are working in orbit over the next six months, [the station] will smell like home," Surayev said.
This will be Surayev's first flight into space, though he has been on back up crews for years.
"I've been a cosmonaut for 13 years and, maybe it's a joke, but I'm like a good cognac that had to age," Surayev said.
Laliberte, who wanted to be the first clown in space and has taken several red noses with him, said he plans to tickle fellow astronauts as they sleep. He will spend nine days in space before returning to Earth.