A Russian Soyuz crew transport with a two man, one woman crew docked with the International Space Station late Tuesday, following a second consecutive “express flight” to the 15 nation orbiting science lab.
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano plan to spend up to six months on the station carrying out at least five spacewalks, receiving multinational re-supply spacecraft and participating in the 180 science experiments and technology demonstrations under way or about to start.
The spacecraft carrying the three astronauts linked up with the station’s Russian segment Rassvet docking port at 10:10 p.m., EDT.
Nyberg, a 43-year-old mechanical engineer, is making her second trip to orbit; Parmitano, a 36-year-old Italian Air Force major and test pilot, is flying for the first time. Yurchikhin, a 54-year-old mechanical engineer, has logged two previous ISS missions, serving as a commander and flight engineer. He launched for the first time as a NASA space shuttle crew member in 2002.
The new arrivals were greeted at the station by commander Pavel Vinogradov, his fellow Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.
With the docking, the station resumed full crew status that was interrupted on May 13, when aU. S., Canadian and Russian crew returned to Earth after nearly five months on board.
Yurchikhin, who will again serve as the ISS commander later this year, Nyberg and Parmitano will share a unique experience just before their scheduled return to Earth in November.
Their replacements will arrive shortly ahead of their departure with the Olympic torch for the 2014 Winter Games planned forSochi,Russiain February.
The torch will find a place aboard the Soyuz spacecraft with Nyberg, Yurchikhin and Parmitano as they descend to Earth with a landing inKazakhstan.
The Soyuz crew lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome inKazakhstanon Tuesday at 4:31 p.m., EDT, less than six hours before their docking with the space station.
The Soyuz docking missions have historically unfolded over two days, or 34 orbits of the Earth.
But on March 28 Vinogradov, Misurkin and Cassidy paved the way for a switch to the faster trips by reaching the station after four orbits.
The shorter transits could become the norm, allowing new space station crews to adjust to the absence of gravity on the station rather than the smaller Soyuz spacecraft.