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First woman space tourist is launched

A Soyuz rocket carrying the first woman space tourist was launched from Baikonour in Kazakhstan today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the US said. The rocket lifted off at 12:09 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in the US, NASA said on its Web site. It is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station Sept. 20, it said. Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-born US citizen, is a member of the crew, which is commanded by Michael Lopez-Alegria from NASA and Mikhail Tyurin, a Russian flight engineer. Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin will replace the two members of the space station crew who have completed a six-month stay, NASA said. German astronaut Thomas Reiter will remain at the station. Ansari, who is reported to have paid $20 million to join the crew, is the fourth private astronaut to be part of a flight on a Russian spacecraft, the Associated Press reported. She is scheduled to return to Earth Sept. 29. The space station orbits about 240 miles (386 kilometers) above Earth. (Bloomberg)