Yuri Gagarin back in space as Russian rocket blasts off painted with his face

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Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, returned to orbit today as a Russian rocket emblazoned with his image blasted off to join the international space station.

A US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off in pre-dawn darkness in the craft which had been specially painted in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's historic flight.

As the rocket launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome as scheduled at 4:18 am it turned the darkness into broad daylight for several moments and warmed the chilly steppe of Kazakhstan with a bright orange glow.

The NASA astronaut traveling with them, Ron Garan, had made one previous trip into space, on a U.S. space shuttle mission in 2008.

He wrote on Twitter that he had picked U2's "One" and Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" as music to listen to during the flight....

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