A Russian-made Soyuz rocket, carrying an international crew of astronauts bound for the International Space Station (ISS), lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft is manned by Sergei Volkov, one of Russia's veteran cosmonauts, and rookie astronauts Aidyn Aimbetov of Kazakhstan's Kazcosmos and Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Mogensen is the first citizen of Denmark ever to go into space, while Aimbetov is the third person from his country to make the voyage. Aimbetov was chosen to replace British singer Sarah Brightman after she decided to pull out of the mission in June.

"It's a great honor for me to represent Denmark as an astronaut," Mogensen said during an interview last month.

According to the ESA, Mogensen will test new equipment on exercise bikes that were made in Denmark. The exercise bikes, which were delivered to the ISS in 2001, are used by astronauts to battle the negative effect of weightlessness.

Aimbetov is carrying samples of traditional Kazakh cheese and dried mare's milk, known as kymyz, to orbit. He is also expected to test the effects of space radiation on the human brain using a special dosimeter.

Aimbetov and Mogensen will make their return journey to Earth on Sept. 12. They will be joined by cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who has been aboard the orbital facility since March.

Meanwhile Volkov is set to make return to Earth in March. He will be joined by fellow cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and astronaut Scott Kelly.

The launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome also marks the 500th spacecraft liftoff from the facility's Gagarin launchpad, which was named after the pioneer Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

It is also the first one to blast off from the cosmodrome since July 23, when the three-man crew consisting of Russia's Oleg Kononenko, Japan's Kimiya Yu and the United States' Kjell Lindgren launched into space.

Before Kononenko and his crew's launch, Russia had placed all planned space travel on hold following the failure of an unmanned Progress spacecraft that was supposed to deliver supplies to the ISS in April.

Russia's mission control on Earth lost contact with the freighter spaceship moments after its launch and the vehicle eventually burned up in the planet's atmosphere. This delayed the spaceflight of the international crew to the ISS by an additional month.

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