Soyuz docks with space station, boosts crew back to six

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying a cosmonaut, a NASA astronaut, and a Japanese engineer -- all space veterans -- docked with the International Space Station early Tuesday after a flawless rendezvous.

A Russian Soyuz ferry craft glided to a computer-orchestrated docking with the International Space Station early Tuesday, bringing a Russian cosmonaut, a NASA astronaut and a Japanese engineer to the lab complex two days after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft as seen from the space station early Tuesday during the final phases of a two-day rendezvous. NASA TV

With veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko monitoring the autonomous approach from the center seat of the Soyuz TMA-05M command module, the spacecraft's docking system engaged its counterpart on the Earth-facing Rassvet module at 12:51 a.m. EDT as the two spacecraft sailed 252 miles above northeast Kazakhstan.

"Docking confirmed," someone said on the Russian flight control loop.

A few moments later, the docking mechanism pulled the Soyuz snugly into place for extensive leak checks, standard procedure before hatches could be opened.

The view of the International Space Station from an approaching Soyuz spacecraft bringing three fresh crew members to the lab complex. NASA TV

The linkup occurred on the 37th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program docking in 1975, the first joint U.S.-Russian space mission.

"Congratulations to our crew and to our Russian partners," said Mike Surber, director of NASA operations in Russia. "It's a very exciting day as it's the 37th anniversary of the handshake between our two countries during Apollo-Soyuz. And here's (hoping) for 37 more years."

Malenchenko, NASA flight engineer Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide were joining Expedition 32 commander Gennady Padalka, cosmonaut Sergei Revin and NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba, who were launched to the space station May 15. They've had the outpost to themselves since July 1 when three earlier crew members departed and returned to Earth.

Malenchenko is one of Russia's most experienced cosmonauts, going into his latest mission with 515 days in space during a flight to the Russian Mir space station, a shuttle mission and two stays aboard the International Space Station. Williams, a Navy helicopter pilot, spent 195 days in space during an earlier station expedition while Hoshide helped activate a Japanese research module during a 14-day shuttle assembly mission.

The expanded ISS-32 crew faces a particularly busy few weeks in space, with the launch and berthing of a Japanese cargo ship, the undocking and redocking of a Russian Progress supply craft to test a new rendezvous antenna, the arrival of yet another Progress with a fresh load of supplies and two spacewalks at the end of August, one by Padalka and Malenchenko and the other by Williams and Hoshide.

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About the author

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.

     

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