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Woman takes over in space

A woman is at the controls of the International Space Station for the first time, with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson taking over the helm from Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

“We appreciate everything you’ve done over the course of last six months. It is a very impressive mission. You guys performed exceptionally. So thank you  I relieve you, Fyodor, from your command,” said Peggy Whitson.

The Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft will bring the previous ISS expedition – along with the first Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor – back to Earth on October 21.

The 16th ISS mission, including Peggy Whitson and Yury Malenchenko, is to spend a total of 190 days in orbit.

The crew is due to stage two spacewalks and host a planned December shuttle flight, bringing a European-built laboratory. A Russian cargo ship is also due to arrive before the year is out.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery is ready for its scheduled launch on Tuesday. 

Mission Commander, Pamela Melroy, will become just the second female to lead a shuttle crew.

The Discovery will attach a large docking port to the ISS which will be used to connect laboratories from Europe and Japan.