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US astronaut Jeff Williams sets off on space mission that could break Scott Kelly’s record

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A Russian rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space base Friday, carrying three crew to the International Space Station, including a US grandfather who is poised to enter the record books.

The rocket took off in windy conditions from Russia’s space base in Kazakhstan at 2126 GMT, an AFP reporter saw.

The trio comprise Russians Oleg Skriprochka and Alexey Ovchinin, and US grandfather of three, Jeff Williams, a veteran of long-duration space missions.

“The Soyuz rocket took off successfully,” the Russian space agency Roskosmos said in a statement, adding that the crewship was scheduled to dock with the orbital outpost at 0311 GMT on Saturday.

The craft is decorated with a portrait of the first man in space, Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, whose pioneering orbital flight was made nearly 55 years ago, on April 12 1961.

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By the end of his half-year trip aboard the ISS, Williams “will become the American with the most cumulative days in space — 534,” NASA says.

The previous US record was set by astronaut Scott Kelly earlier this year.

Kelly, 52, spent nearly a year in space and returned to Earth earlier this month with a total of 520 days in space, as part of an experiment to test the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the body and mind ahead of a potential future mission to Mars.

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The all-time record for cumulative days spent in space is held by Russian cosmonaut Genny Padalka, who racked up 879 days over his career and wrapped up his final mission in September 2015.

Williams has so far notched up over 362 days in space, including three spacewalks.

His previous missions were flown aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in 2000, as well as a trip in 2006 when the station was far smaller — with only two modules and three crew members.

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In 2009 and 2010, Williams served as a flight engineer for three months and later commanded the ISS for the remainder of his half-year mission.

Williams, Skripochka and Ovchinin will join US astronaut Tim Kopra, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and the European Space Agency’s British astronaut Tim Peake at the ISS to continue Expedition 47.

The ISS has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres (17,400 miles) per hour since 1998 and has been continuously occupied since the first expedition in November 2000.

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Space is one of few areas of cooperation between Moscow and the West that has not been disrupted by tensions connected to violence and separatism in Ukraine.


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GUILTY: Jury rules Michael Flynn’s former business partner is guilty of lobbying for Turkey

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Michael Flynn's former business partner Bijan Kian was found guilty by a jury for illegally lobbying for a foreign country.

The information was uncovered as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and as the Justice Department's crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying, CNN explained.

Flynn has had a difficult go in his court case, but information Flynn gave was helpful, according to the DOJ.

Kian is an Iranian-American businessman who was charged with conspiring to hide his lobbying work for Turkey without registering as a foreign agent for the Turkish government.

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“It’s as bad as it looks”: Pelosi under fire for debt ceiling deal that hands GOP power to kneecap progressive agenda

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"It sets up a crisis of the first year of the next president's administration," said a former congressional staffer. "We're letting them light the fuse on another bomb and place it squarely in the middle of the next president's first year."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have helped temporarily avert a looming fiscal crisis on Tuesday by striking a budget deal with the Trump administration, but progressives warned the agreement hands Republicans power to kneecap the next president's agenda by suspending the debt ceiling until after the 2020 elections.

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FLASHBACK: Mueller makes GOP lawmaker look like an absolute fool during 2013 hearing

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While previewing former special counsel Robert Mueller's upcoming testimony before the House of Representatives, CNN on Tuesday played a clip from six years ago showing Mueller schooling Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who tried to corner the then-FBI director about his agency's work on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

During the hearing, Gohmert tried to get Mueller to explain why the FBI supposedly hadn't visited the mosque that was frequented by the Tsarnaev brothers, the two American citizens of Chechen descent who carried out the attack.

"Why did no one go to the mosque and say, who are these guys?" Gohmert asked. "Why was that not done?"

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