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International creature crew launches into space


MOSCOW, May 31 (RIA Novosti) - Cuban crayfishes, Georgian snails, geckos and Spanish ribbed newts made up a special international research team setting off Tuesday in a Soyuz LV from the renowned Gagarin launch site on the Russian Baikonur space center, according to the Institute of Medico-Biological Problems.

"The container with Cuban fresh-water crayfishes, several gecko reptiles, Spanish ribbed newts and microorganisms has been orbited for a 16-day mission within the Foton biological research program," head of the institute's gravitation biology laboratory Murad Tairbekov, said.

After 16 days of enduring zero gravity and enhanced radiation, the container is expected to be back on earth on June 16, he said.

"The descent module will land in Russia and we'll see to it that it lands," Valery Lyndin of the Mission Control Center said.

The Foton M-2 separated from the Soyuz and headed for a 16-day controlled flight, the Mission Control Center spokesman said.

During the first 24 hours, specialists will check the serviceability of the flight-control systems and equipment. Between three to five communications sessions will be held to exchange

The Foton will conclude the results of the first research experiments by staging 40 onboard and other experiments on order from the European Space Agency, as well as 20 experiments under the Russian program.

The Foton will fly at an altitude of between 300 and 370 km, with a minimal altitude of between 260 and 266 kilometers. The spacecraft weighs 6.5 tons, 850 to 1,200 kilograms of which is research equipment.

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