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Tue Apr 11, 1:10 PM ET

STAR CITY, Russia (AFP) - Never mind the final frontier of technology -- a little superstition still comes in handy on the
International Space Station (ISS), astronauts freshly returned to Earth said.

"Our expedition was number 13 and there had been a solar eclipse the day before we left," Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian to go into space, said with a smile.

He landed back on Earth Sunday after an 11-day journey, with ISS astronauts Russian Valery Tokarev and American William MacArthur in tow.

Pontes told journalists at Star City outside Moscow how his team fought off bad luck with pictures of Soviet hero Yury Gagarin, who 45 years ago this April became the first man in space.

"I was walking on Red Square in Moscow when I bought a T-shirt with a picture of Gagarin on it," he said. "It brought me good luck." Also, "there was also a picture of Gagarin put up in the inside of the station. Gagarin looked at us from there and calmed our worries."

Tokarev said the space station, where he and MacArthur had spent 190 days before making the return journey with Pontes, had also been under protection of a cross offered by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. "You could say that our station was blessed."
By Will Pavia and Chris Windle

VILLAGERS who protested that a new housing estate would “harm the fairies” living in their midst have forced a property company to scrap its building plans and start again.

Marcus Salter, head of Genesis Properties, estimates that the small colony of fairies believed to live beneath a rock in St Fillans, Perthshire, has cost him £15,000. His first notice of the residential sensibilities of the netherworld came as his diggers moved on to a site on the outskirts of the village, which crowns the easterly shore of Loch Earn.

He said: “A neighbour came over shouting, ‘Don’t move that rock. You’ll kill the fairies’.” The rock protruded from the centre of a gently shelving field, edged by the steep slopes of Dundurn mountain, where in the sixth century the Celtic missionary St Fillan set up camp and attempted to convert the Picts from the pagan darkness of superstition.

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