July 19, 2005

Astronauts re-dock Russian craft before spacewalk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two astronauts briefly left the
International Space Station unmanned Tuesday to re-dock their
transport vessel so it would not hamper a spacewalk next month,
mission control said.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov and U.S. astronaut John
Phillips needed two attempts to close the hatch between the
Soyuz craft and the space station, taking a few minutes longer
than scheduled at the start of the procedure.

A mission control spokesman said the maneuver had
nevertheless been completed in 30 minutes rather than the
expected 40.

"They re-docked quicker than expected," the spokesman said.

The pair, stationed in orbit since April, flew the vehicle
and re-docked it in a different section of the station so that
it would not hinder access for a spacewalk scheduled for
August. Russian media reported the crew had planned to carry
out the re-docking next month, but work had been brought
forward because of delays to the return to flight of NASA's

The Discovery shuttle was scheduled to blast off on July
13, but launch has been postponed because of a technical
problem. It will be the first shuttle mission since 2003 when
NASA grounded the fleet after the Columbia accident.