November 16, 2011
New Crew Aboard The International Space Station
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Russia´s Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut docked successfully with the International Space Station (ISS), in the first manned Russian mission in more than five months, and the first for the US since the retirement of NASA´s shuttle program.
The rocket launched from Russia´s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday in snowy weather, quickly disappearing in the low clouds and reaching orbit safely. The docking of Soyuz TMA-22 went smoothly, boosting Russia´s confidence in its space program.
BBC News´ Daniel Sandford in Moscow said the launch and progress of the Soyuz, designed in the 1960s, was a nervous moment for both NASA and the Roscosmos, after the failure of the Progress cargo rocket that crashed back to Earth in August.
That crash led the Russian space agency to halt human space flight until they could investigate the problem. After determining the problem was an “isolated” glitch caused by a fuel pipe blockage, they resumed space program activities.
A spokesman for US space agency NASA said the Russian team had done a “tremendous job getting the launch and the docking ready.”
“The process of the approach and docking was carried out in an automatic regime under the supervision of mission control center and the crew,” Russia´s mission control center outside Moscow said in a statement on its website.
The Soyuz capsule carried NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin to the ISS´s Poisk mini-research module, with the hatch opening at 2:39. EST on Wednesday. Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum of NASA and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov welcomed the new crew for their four-month stay on the space station.
The six crew members will have a little less than a week together before the Expedition 29 crew of Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov head home on Monday aboard Soyuz TMA-02M, which brought them to the station on June 9. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 30 for Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin. A formal change of command ceremony is planned for Sunday.
Three additional Expedition 30 flight engineers -- NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers -- are scheduled to launch to the ISS on December 21.
This is Burbank´s third visit to the ISS. Both of his previous missions to the station were aboard space shuttle Atlantis. On his last visit to the station, Burbank conducted a 7-hour, 11-minute spacewalk.
This is the first spaceflight for both Shkaplerov and Ivanishin.
Image Caption: Backdropped by Earth's horizon and the blackness of space, a docked Russian Soyuz spacecraft is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 29 crew member on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
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