Soyuz blasts astronauts into space

A Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft carrying astronauts from the US, Russia and Italy blasted off from Kazakhstan heading towards the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, and Italy's Paolo Nespoli are expected to dock at the Space Station on Friday.

Space programs are expected to change dramatically in the coming months, with the United States having only two more space shuttle flights scheduled before retiring their shuttle program in 2011.

The Soyuz will then be the only vehicle able to transport crews to the International Space Station.

The US government wants NASA to focus on "next-generation" rockets and spacecrafts able to carry astronauts to asteroids or Mars.