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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shuttleworth Nears Final Countdown

ReutersRussian, South African and Italian flags flying Tuesday at the rocket's launch site.
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan -- A Soyuz rocket was hauled into an upright position at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday in final preparations for the space launch of tourist Mark Shuttleworth and two others on Thursday.

South African Shuttleworth, Italian Roberto Vittori and Russian Yury Gidzenko are set to blast off from the Russian base on the Kazakh steppe on April 25 for a 10-day visit to the International Space Station.

Dozens of onlookers, relatives and military officials braved biting cold to watch the Soyuz-TM34 leave its hangar at precisely 7:00 a.m.

Nudged forward by a blue locomotive, the grey, 49-meter Soyuz, adorned with all three flags, gradually nosed its way to Launch Pad One -- the same site from which Yury Gagarin, the world's first cosmonaut, blasted into space in April 1961.

"Everything is going fine, and so far everything is on schedule," said Igor Barmin, head of design bureau Obshchevo Mashinostroieniye, adding that he was happy to see amateur cosmonauts take part in the Russian space program.