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UK astronaut Tim Peake arrives at International Space Station

The 43-year-old said he would call his relatives from space to wish them a merry Christmas.

Updated 6.43pm

TIM PEAKE, THE first British astronaut to travel to the International Space Station, blasted off this morning from the Baikonur cosmodrome with two other spacemen.

Peake (43) joins Russian space veteran Yury Malenchenko and Tim Kopra of Nasa for a six-month mission on the ISS.

Fire from the boosters of the Soyuz rocket cut a bright light through the overcast sky at the Moscow-operated cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as the spacecraft launched on schedule at 11.03am (Irish time).

The Soyuz capsule has since docked at the ISS, with the astronauts expected to enter within an hour.

A meeting of David Cameron’s cabinet “agreed that Tim Peake’s mission is an inspiration for people up and down the country, particularly young people and children looking to study science,” his spokeswoman said.

“We’ve been so busy focusing on this mission I forgot that Christmas is just a week away,” Peake told reporters at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur yesterday.

We’ll be enjoying the fantastic view of planet Earth and our thoughts will be with everyone on Earth enjoying Christmas and with our friends and family.

The 43-year-old added that he would be able to call his relatives from space to wish them a merry Christmas.

“I also heard that a Christmas pudding went up on orbital four so we will have treats as well,” Peake said to laughter in the press room.

British astronaut Tim Peake Source: PA WIRE

Russian space officials said the launch had gone according to plan and that the spacecraft was due to dock at the ISS at about 5.24pm.

Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen was blaring in the Soyuz roughly half an hour before blast-off as the astronauts listened to their favourite music in preparation for the mission.

Former army major Peake – a European Space Agency flight engineer – begins a 173-day mission at the orbiting research outpost along with Malenchenko (3) and 52-year-old Kopra.

Source: European Space Agency, ESA/YouTube

Malenchenko, who will celebrate his 54th birthday aboard the ISS next week, has already logged 641 days in space, while Kopra has chalked up 58.

The experienced air pilot becomes only the eighth Briton to enter space.

He has vowed to take part in the London marathon from space on April 24, harnessed to a running machine on the ISS some 400km above Earth.

British astronaut Tim Peake British astronaut Tim Peake (left), Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (centre) and US astronaut Tim Kopra (right) pose for a picture during the crew's news conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan Source: PA WIRE

The trio will join up with the three astronauts already at the ISS – Scott Kelly of NASA and Russians Sergei Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko.

Three other astronauts – NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko – returned to Earth on Friday in a rare nighttime landing.

The ISS space laboratory has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 km per hour since 1998.

Space travel has been one of the few areas of international cooperation between Russia and the West that has not been wrecked by the Ukraine crisis.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Ground control to Major Tim: Astronaut to take part in London marathon… from space>

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