It has been half a century since Yuri Gagarin, the first space traveller, made the historic journey that put the Soviets ahead of the Americans in the space race.
A mission to celebrate the 50th anniversary of human space flight has blasted off from Kazakhstan.
The goal is to explore the potential for longer manned missions.
With the US shuttle programme due to end this summer, NASA has agreed to pay Russia almost 63 million dollars per astronaut in the coming years.
Al Jazeera's Neave Barker reports.