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Soyuz arrives at ISS on first manned mission since October failure

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A Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russian, American and Canadian astronauts arrived at the International Space Station on Monday, following the first manned launch since a failed launch in October.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency blasted off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome earlier in the day.

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They successfully docked at the ISS on schedule at 1736 GMT to begin an expected six and a half months aboard the ISS, the Russian Roscosmos space agency said via Twitter.

It was the first manned voyage for the Soviet-era Soyuz since October 11, when a rocket carrying Russia’s Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the pair to make a harrowing emergency landing.

They escaped unharmed but the failed launch — the first such incident in Russia’s post-Soviet history — raised concerns about the state of the Soyuz programme.

AFP / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEVAnne McClain, Oleg Kononenko, and David Saint-Jacques say risk is just part of their job

The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the United States retired the space shuttle in 2011.

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques smiled and gave thumbs up to the cheering crowd including relatives as they ascended into the Soyuz capsule on Monday morning.

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Minutes after take off, Roscosmos said the capsule was in orbit. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine meanwhile thanked the US and Russian teams “for their dedication to making this launch a success”.

– Risk ‘part of our profession’ –

(NASA/Bill Ingalls)/AFP/File / Bill INGALLSA Soyuz rocket failed just minutes after blast-off in October

In a successful rehearsal for Monday’s flight, a Soyuz cargo vessel took off on November 16 from Baikonur and delivered several tonnes of food, fuel and supplies to the ISS.

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Russia said last month the October launch had failed because of a sensor damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome, but insisted the spacecraft remained reliable.

While flight commander Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission to add to an impressive 533 days in space, both Saint-Jacques and McClain are making their maiden trip.

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Crew commander Kononenko, 54, said during a press conference on the eve of the launch that “risk is part of our profession”.

But he added that his team “absolutely” trusted those who had prepared for the flight.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Sergei Prokopyev of Roscosmos were set to greet the trio on arrival at the ISS.

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NASA/Roscosmos/AFP/File / HOThe astronauts are heading for a six-and-a-half month mission on the International Space Station 

Veteran Kononenko said the crew would conduct a spacewalk on December 11 as part of an investigation into a mysterious hole that has caused an air leak on the ISS.

While on board, Saint-Jacques will be involved in an experiment called “At Home in Space” which “takes a closer look at how crew members adapt to living with each other by creating a shared culture,” according to the Canadian Space Agency.

Among the dozens of other experiments the new crew members will take part in is one that will use worms to examine muscle loss in space, led by British scientists.

The experiment could pave the way to new treatments for muscular conditions for people on Earth, according to the UK Space Agency.

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– ‘Spacewalking like rugby’ –

AFP / STRThe launch comes after a failed mission on October 11

McClain, 39, served in Iraq and has represented the United States in women’s rugby.

She has said that training to spacewalk resembled the sport since it demands “grit, toughness, mental focus, and more”.

Russia-US cooperation in space has remained one of the few areas not affected by a crisis in ties between the former Cold War enemies.

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But comments by the combative chief of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, have raised eyebrows.

He recently joked Russia would send a mission to the Moon to “verify” whether or not NASA lunar landings ever took place.

In recent years Russia’s debt-laden space industry has suffered a number of mishaps including the loss of cargo spacecraft and satellites.

At a press conference following the successful docking, Rogozin announced March 1, 2019, as the date for the next manned launch to the ISS.

He said Ovchinin and Hague would be on board, along with NASA’s Christina Koch.

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Two impeachment articles expected against President Trump: reports

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Democrats are expected to announce on Tuesday two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, US media reported Monday evening, after laying out their case at a hearing against a president they branded a "clear and present danger" to national security.

The articles will focus on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, The Washington Post said, citing three official familiar with the matter.

It added that the full House of Representatives would vote on the articles next week, ahead of a trial in the Senate.

CNN said a third article on obstruction of justice was still being debated, and the network's sources cautioned that plans were still being finalized.

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Ambassador McFaul ‘shocked’ Trump invited Sergey Lavrov back to the Oval Office: ‘What are they thinking?’

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Former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul repeatedly said he was shocked that President Donald Trump will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.

McFaul was interviewed Monday evening by Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC "The Last Word," where he contrasted how Trump is treating the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin to the Ukrainian government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Ambassador McFaul, I want to get your reaction to the Russian foreign minister meeting tomorrow at the White House, in the Oval Office, with President Trump," O'Donnell said. "That's his second time. President Zelinsky still hasn't gotten that meeting and Donald trump apparently, apparently may be voted articles of impeachment in committee this week because of his interactions with President Zelensky."

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House Judiciary to vote on Thursday to impeach Donald Trump: report

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Democrats are moving ahead with the impeachment of President Donald Trump following another day of testimony on Monday.

"House Democrats plan to unveil at least two articles of impeachment Tuesday, charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, according to multiple lawmakers and aides. The Judiciary Committee plans to vote on the articles on Thursday, setting up a vote on the House floor next week to make Trump the third president in history to be impeached," Politico reported Monday evening.

"Democratic leaders plan to formally announce the articles at a press conference Tuesday morning. Judiciary Committee Democrats intend to meet ahead of the announcement and review the articles," Politico reported. "The decision to move forward with specific impeachment charges is the most significant move yet for the year-old Democratic House majority, a legacy-defining moment for Speaker Nancy Pelosi that sets up a Senate trial for Trump in early 2020."

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