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Today is a big day for American astronaut Kjell Lindgren. He’s going to space for the first time.

TIME spoke with Lindgren just days before he left the United States for the launch in Kazakhstan.

“I’ve been counting down the days to the launch ever since I got assigned,” he said. “You start to have very real thoughts about what it means to climb into a rocket, to launch into orbit, and spend the next five months on the space station.”

Lindgren is board certified in emergency medicine and aerospace medicine. When he’s not training to spend time in space, he is also a husband and father of three.

He recently started an Instagram account where he’ll be posting updates from his mission.

You can watch the launch live on starting at 4pm EST Wednesday.

TIME is following the yearlong mission between American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who are nearly four months into a yearlong mission aboard the international space station. Click here to watch the series, or watch Episode 1, “Leaving Home,” below.

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Write to Jonathan D. Woods at

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