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Russian spacecraft launched successfully

Russia's Soyuz spacecraft successfully blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome at 1231 IST to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying three cosmonauts, including an American space tourist.

world Updated: Oct 12, 2008 20:27 IST

Russia's Soyuz spacecraft on Sunday successfully blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome at 1231 IST to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying three cosmonauts, including an American space tourist.

The crew of the 18th expedition to the ISS consists of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, US astronaut Michael Fincke and space tourist Richard Garriott.

The 47-year-old Richard is the son of NASA astronaut Wen Garriott.

Richard Garriott made his fortune in online gaming as a designer, programmer and producer. Back in the 1980s, he was behind the success of the cult Ultima Online series.

He is also responsible for such hits as lineage and lineage II: the Chaotic Chronicle. His latest project is Tabula Rasa, Russia Today TV reported.

Richard paid US$ 30 million to follow in his father's footsteps by going to space on a 12-day mission.

The space tourist is going to perform several experiments on the orbit. The most important of them involves protein crystal growth. He's also planning to lecture from space and make video and photo shootings before returning with the US-Russian crew of the 17th mission.

The other crew members will stay back on the ISS till April 2009. One of their main tasks is to prepare the station to house a six-member crew. They are also going to test a new version of a space helmet designed in Russia.