The Soyuz spacecraft has successfully docked with the international Space Station after its six-hour spaceflight – the fastest ever manned flight to the orbiting laboratory. The three-man crew will now spend the next five months aboard the space station.
The Soyuz spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8.43pm (GMT) yesterday and docked with the ISS after a journey that lasted under six hours.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy along with Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) were the first station crew members to take this expedited route.
Instead of the standard two days it takes a Russian spacecraft to reach and dock with the station, the Soyuz crew arrived and docked with the ISS at 2.28am (GMT) after only four orbits of Earth.
This fast-track journey, which normally takes 30 orbits of the Earth over 45 hours, was achieved by launching the Soyuz spacecraft just after the ISS passed overhead in orbit.
While this is the first crewed spacecraft to employ this technique, Russian space officials successfully tested out the shortened route with the last three Progress cargo vehicles.
Docking with the ISS
After the hatches of the space station opened, Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin joined Cmdr Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency and flight engineers Tom Marshburn of NASA and Roman Romanenko of Roscosmos.
Cmdr Hadfield has been enthralling us earthlings over the past few months with his stunning pictures of Earth taken from his vantage point on the station and sharing them on Twitter.
Earlier today he took to Twitter to express his excitement about the arrival of the Soyuz crew:
Hadfield also tweeted a photo of the Soyuz spacecraft blasting off yesterday, as seen from the ISS, along with the caption: ‘Tonight’s Finale: Soyuz Rocket Launch – the moment of ignition, as-seen from their target, the Space Station.’
Soyuz pictured blasting off from the vantage point of the ISS. Credit: Chris Hadfield
Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko have been residing at the space station since 21 December and are set to return to Earth in May.
The three new crew members will stay at the space station until September.
Cassidy, a commander in the US Navy, is making his second spaceflight. He made his first visit to the station aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in July 2009.
It is the third space mission for Vinogradov, a former design engineer. He was a crew member aboard space station Mir for 197 days in 1997-98 and also spent 182 days aboard the ISS in 2006 as a flight engineer.
It’s the first space mission for Misurkin, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Russian Air Force.
The Expedition 35 crew pictured waving farewell yesterday from the base of the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. From top: Russian flight engineer Alexander Misurkin, NASA flight engineer Chris Cassidy and Soyuz commander Pavel Vinogradov. Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi
The Soyuz TMA-08M rocket pictured launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi