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The Independent Online
Baikonur, Kazakhstan - Four shuttle launches have not dulled the rush of lift-off for the Nasa astronaut Norman Thagard, who is to become the first American to go into space on board a Russian craft.

The launch "will be a real thrill for me," Mr Thagard said on the eve of the mission, seated next to his Russian crewmates behind a glass wall to protect them from germs. Mr Thagard, Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov appeared before a Russian space commission, assuring officials that they were ready for their three-month mission on board the Mir space- station. AP

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