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2 Houstonians, 1 Russian to embark on 5-month space journey

HOUSTON – Two U.S. astronauts who live in Houston and one Russian cosmonaut are preparing to ride a Russian-built rocket to the International Space Station.

"I always thought of astronauts as superheroes and put becoming an astronaut in the same category as me becoming a professional football player or becoming Spider Man," NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei said. "It was something that I just did not think was possible."

They have a five-month mission planned working on about 250 science experiments that are impossible in earth’s gravity. What they learn could help prepare for a much longer flight -- like a trip to Mars. The conditions on the space station can be cramped.

"Today when we look at hiring astronauts, we want people who are nice. Because we have to live together for six months in a five bedroom house," NASA Astronaut Joe Acaba said.

Space station astronauts have already installed adapters to prepare for future commercial flights.

Within a few years, the U.S. hopes to again launch astronauts on U.S.-built rockets designed by private companies.

"It's going to free up NASA to travel further away. If we can hire people to provide a service for us, to get us back and forth to low earth orbit, then we can focus on expanding our capabilities further and further away from the earth," Vande Hei said.

The three will launch on Sept. 13 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and will return to Earth in March 2018.

For more on the mission, click here.

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