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. Two Canadians to blast off into space in 2009

by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) Feb 11, 2008
Two Canadian astronauts will participate in space missions next year, the government said Monday.

Julie Payette will serve as a mission specialist on NASA's space shuttle Endeavour in April 2009. The shuttle crew will deliver the last elements of the Kibo laboratory contributed by the Japanese space agency to the International Space Station.

The following month, Robert Thirsk will take part in Expedition 19, becoming the first Canadian to remain on the International Space Station for a long stay, living there for four to six months.

He will fly to the space station aboard a Soyuz craft that will be launched from Baikonour, in Kazahkstan, officials said.

Since 2000, the international space station has been inhabited permanently by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts.

Thirsk previously took part in mission STS-78 in 1996 on board the space shuttle Columbia, serving as a payload specialist.

This will be Payette's second mission in space and onboard the International Space Station. She previously took part in the STS-96 mission on board the space shuttle Discovery in 1999.

"Canadians can be proud of our contributions to space exploration and excited by the new chapters that will be written by our Canadian astronauts in these upcoming missions," Industry Minister Jim Prentice said in a statement.

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Astronauts launch first space walk of Atlantis mission
Houston (AFP) Feb 11, 2008
Two astronauts from the US space shuttle Atlantis stepped out into space Monday on the first walk of the current mission, to prepare the European research laboratory Columbus for hooking up to the International Space Station, NASA said.

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