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Tim Peake blasts off to be first British ISS astronaut

Timothy Peake, the first Briton to represent the European Space Agency aboard the ISS, has blasted off from Kazakhstan with Tim Kopra from the USA and Russian Yuri Malenchenko. He hopes to watch "Star Wars" in space.

The former army major Timothy Peake (pictured) has blasted off from the Russian manned space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for a 171-day mission at the International Space Station (ISS) with his Russian and American colleagues.

The first Briton to travel to the ISS said on the eve of his departure that he would look down on Earth at Christmas time and think of his family - hopefully while enjoying a Christmas pudding.

"We've been so busy focusing on this mission I forgot that Christmas is just [ten days] away," he told reporters at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur on Monday. He added that he would be able to call his family from space to wish them a merry Christmas.

His fellow crew members, Russian space veteran Yuri Malenchenko and NASA's Timothy Kopra from the USA have already spent 641 and 58 days in space respectively.

Russland Sojus TMA-19M hebt Richtung ISS ab

The Soyuz rocket carrying the crew on the first part of their journey took nine minutes to reach orbit

Timothy Peake hopes to watch the long-awaited galactic epic

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

in space. He even plans to take part in the London marathon in April - with the help of a running machine some 400 kilometers above Earth.

On Friday, three astronauts returned to Earth after nearly five months in space aboard the ISS. The capsule carrying Russian Oleg Kononenko, American Kjell Lindgren and Japanese Kimiya Yui landed in Kazakhstan.

The ISS space laboratory has been orbiting the Earth since 1998. Space travel is been one of the few areas of international cooperation between Russia and the West that has not been affected by the Ukraine crisis.

das/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)

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