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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins takes off on final U.S. voyage on Russian rocket

The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins aboard, bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Why it matters: Per Axios' Miriam Kramer, this marks the last contracted flight on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for NASA, marking the transition to using U.S. launch providers like SpaceX instead.

Liftoff! 🚀 The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Kate Rubins of @NASA_Astronauts and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos on a two-orbit, three-hour journey to the @Space_Station launched at 1:45am EDT.

— NASA (@NASA) October 14, 2020

Of note: The launch comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first crew on the ISS, on Nov. 2, 2000.

  • The $100 billion ISS has since been continuously occupied by rotating crews of astronauts from the U.S., Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.

What they're saying: It's "incredible that we've had a space station with continuous human presence for 20 years," said Rubins ahead of her second trip to the ISS — which fell on her birthday — per CBS News.

  • "It's one of the most incredible engineering achievements, I think, that humanity has done," she added. "And the fact that we've done it as an international partnership and a collaboration, I think that's absolutely the intangible benefit of all of this."

Flashback: SpaceX launches NASA astronauts to orbit in historic first

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