updated 5/27/2009 6:56:32 AM ET 2009-05-27T10:56:32

A Russian space capsule blasted off Wednesday on a historic mission to double the crew of the international space station.

The Soyuz craft soared into the hot afternoon skies over Kazakhstan's northern steppe on its two-day journey to the orbiting station.

Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, and Belgium's Frank De Winne will join the three crew members already on board the space station.

It will be the first time the station has had six permanent members.

NASA says in the future, the space station could take as many as 13 people, as the crew hosts short-term visitors.

Scores of journalists, relatives and dignitaries, including Belgium's Prince Philip, watched from a viewing stand about 1 mile away, applauding as the rocket roared into the sky.

Footage broadcast by NASA TV from inside the Soyuz showed the three astronauts waving and giving the thumbs-up for the camera.

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