April 18, 2005
Space Station Crew Unloads Supplies
MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- Cosmonauts and astronauts exchanged joyful embraces Sunday and began loading the international space station with scientific equipment and fresh vegetables after their successful docking of the Soyuz cargo ship.
A little more than two hours after the 6:20 a.m. linkup, Russian Sergei Krikalev, American John Phillips and Italian Roberto Vittori, who blasted off Friday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, met face-to-face with the two men who have spent the past six months aboard the orbiting station.
After changing out of their space suits and into track suits bearing the insignia of their respective space agencies, the newcomers were greeted by cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov with the traditional Russian welcome offering of bread and salt.
One of Krikalev and Phillips' key tasks during their six-month mission will be to observe the condition of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery when it arrives in the first shuttle launch since the Columbia shuttle disaster on Feb. 1, 2003. The two will conduct a photo survey of the Discovery's insulating tiles as the shuttle docks.
Since the Columbia disaster, the Russian Soyuz capsule has been the only means of getting astronauts to the station. Russian cargo ships alone have delivered fresh supplies in the interim.
Fred Gregory, deputy administrator of the U.S. space agency NASA, said that the resumption of U.S. space shuttle flights was on schedule.
"The return to flight activities for the shuttle appears to be on time and we are very hopeful that we will be able to launch within the first window, in middle May or early June," Gregory said.
Sharipov and his crew mate, U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao, are scheduled to return to Earth on April 25, along with Vittori, who is representing the European Space Agency.
Daniel Sacotte, director of human spaceflight for the European Space Agency, said Vittori's presence on the mission was a great step forward for the agency.
"It shows that more and more, Europe is a key partner in the cooperation with the space station and the future of man in space," he said.
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