March 20, 2006

Space Station Crew Free Up Orbiting Parking Lot

MOSCOW -- Crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday took a short flight in their Soyuz craft to free up a docking bay for their replacements arriving later this month, Russian mission control said.

Cosmonaut Valery Tokarev undocked the Soyuz from the Zarya module docking port, backed off from the station about 50 metres, and then docked at the Zvezda living quarters module, a mission control spokeswoman said.

Tokarev was assisted by Bill McArthur, the U.S. astronaut and ISS commander. The manoeuvre passed off without incident.

"The Soyuz was moved from the Zarya module to make way for the next manned spacecraft ... which will launch from Baikonur on March 30," said the spokeswoman.

The next space station crew will be Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams.

They will be accompanied by Marcos Pontes, who will become the first Brazilian in space. He will spend about a week on the station and return to Earth with McArthur and Tokarev.