Image: Soyuz booster
Str  /  AP
A Russian Soyuz booster sits on its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in advance of its Tuesday launch.
updated 5/31/2005 8:46:31 PM ET 2005-06-01T00:46:31

A Russian rocket carrying a satellite laboratory blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome Tuesday on a 16-day mission.

Russia's Federal Space Agency said the Soyuz-U rocket was launched at 8 a.m. ET and entered orbit 10 minutes later.

The European Space Agency said the Foton-M2 research satellite carries 850 pounds (385 kilograms) of equipment to conduct more than 20 chemical, physical and biotechnological experiments.

Newts, scorpions, geckos and snails are among the animals onboard the craft for the experiments, which will be monitored from a ESA station in Sweden.

Yevgeny Ilyin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, said the geckos, for example, will help Russian scientists to develop osteoporosis treatment techniques, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The craft was scheduled to return to Earth on June 16, landing near the Russian-Kazakh border.

The last time Russia tried to launch a Foton-M satellite into orbit ended in disaster in October 2002 when the Soyuz rocket carrying the craft exploded several seconds after liftoff from Russia's northern Plesetsk launching pad.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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