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Soyuz rocket lifts off for International Space Station

When astronaut Scott Kelly embarks on a one-year space station stint next spring, his twin brother will be offering more than his usual moral support.

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly will be joining in from Earth, undergoing medical testing before, during and after his brother's American-record-setting flight.

A Russian rocket carrying a three-man crew to the International Space Station has blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz booster rocket lifted off as scheduled at 1:57 a.m. Thursday (1957GMT Wednesday) and soared into the darkness over the Central Asian steppe.

The crew — NASA's Reid Wiseman, Russian cosmonaut Max Surayev and German Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency — are set to dock at the station less than six hours later. They are scheduled to stay in orbit for six months.