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Amazing scenes as rocket is prepared.

DURING the Cold War, Russian space activities were cloaked in secrecy.

But the day before British astronaut Tim Peake blasted into space, a ceremony showed they are now steeped in tradition and superstition.

A Russian orthodox priest walked around the 162ft (49m) high rocket that will the arry British astronaut to the International Space Station, sprinkling holy water on its fuselage and boosters and muttering prayers.

Then he flicked more holy water on the watching relatives of Russian officials involved in the mission.

Blessing the rocket is a ritual that dates back to the mid-1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Yesterday's ceremony took place at Launch Pad 1, the spot from where Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, blasted off in 1961.

Before leaving the Cosmonaut hotel to "suit up" and head out to the launch pad, Major Peake will comply with another tradition by signing his hotel room door.

There is one more tradition - also started by Yuri Gagarin - that is never witnessed by anyone outside the inner circle of the astronaut corps - and it's undsure if Major Peake wil observe it.

On their way to the launch pad, the crew members step out of their bus at a hidden location and urinate on its wheels.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2015
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