May 29, 2009

Russian Soyuz Capsule Docks With ISS

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station on Friday.

Russian astronaut Roman Romanenko, Frank De Winne of Belgium, and Canadian Robert Thirsk will meet with the current ISS crew of Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

"The space capsule docked with the ISS at 4:34 pm Moscow time (1234 GMT)," said Russian mission control spokesman Valery Lyndin.

"The docking was achieved automatically and without any problems. Everything went very smoothly, it went very well."

This marks the first time the recently expanded space station has housed six crewmembers, following a decade of installations to the outpost's facilities.

Upgrades include the addition of a European laboratory last year and the arrival of a hi-tech Japanese lab, Kibo, which is still in progress.

Also, a new solar array has been installed to offer more power for the outpost's expanded crew.

The new crewmembers will also be among the first to try out a new machine aboard the ISS that recycles urine into drinking water.

Also, the current mission marks the first time astronauts from all five of the partners in the ISS -- Canada, the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan, Russia and the United States -- are in orbit together.

The main objective of the mission is to see how well the newly expanded crew lives together for a long period of time.

The crew will expand to 13 for a short period of time when space shuttle Endeavour's seven-member crew meets with the current crew.

After four months, De Winne will take the reigns as commander of the ISS from Padalka, marking the first time a European has taken control of the outpost.


Image Caption: The Soyuz TMA-15 carrying Expedition 20 is viewed several moments before docking to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV


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